As we enter into the season of Thanksgiving, we usually attempt to move our hearts to a place of giving thanks for the good in our lives. But, what if we could become thankful not only in the good, encouraging or beautiful seasons of life, but also in the evil, discouraging or troubling aspects of our lives? To be thankful in suffering certainly seems counter-intuitive, and yet the Bible calls for this different sort of thanksgiving.
The Old Testament emphasizes a thanksgiving that we should give for all things. Job 2:10 famously declares “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” And, the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, in the various “time[s] for every matter under heaven,” that God “has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11).
Good and evil events can be received with thanks; good and evil times can be declared beautiful with thanksgiving. Thus, people can give thanks to God not only for the good He does, but also for the good that He redeems out of evil.
The New Testament affirms this wisdom of thanksgiving in all times, especially as Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The Thessalonian church was founded and grew under constant persecution, and yet Paul instructs them to offer thanksgiving even in the midst of that persecution. In fact, giving thanks for “all circumstances” is said to be God’s will, just as Jesus gave thanks to His Father for joyful times and for heart-wrenching times during His time on Earth.
Jesus also gives cause for thanksgiving despite circumstances of evil and suffering through His death on the cross. In the crucifixion, which is seemingly one of the ugliest, most disturbing, most gruesome evils ever done in human history, Christians find great beauty and good. Though the innocent and perfect Son of God is cruelly executed, His death ends in resurrection and brings about forgiveness and redemption, the recreation of people into the fullness of the image and likeness of God.
Therefore, using the crucifixion and resurrection as a model, we can find cause for thanksgiving even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Certainly, it takes a radical faith in God to give thanks for what otherwise would be considered a circumstance of evil, suffering, trouble or grief. Yet, Christians believe in a God who has redeemed and restored all things, even death itself. Therefore, Christians can give thanks to God “in all circumstances” precisely because God is doing good work whether by working good circumstances or by redeeming evil circumstances.
So, as you reflect on thanksgiving this Thanksgiving, what can you be thankful for that has been a blessing for you? And, to take on the even more difficult question, what can you be thankful for that has been suffering for you?
Faculty and staff from Grand Canyon University’s colleges are writing about Thanksgiving and what they are thankful for. Learn more about GCU, including our colleges, degree programs and scholarship opportunities by contacting us today.