On the night before Thanksgiving 2010, I laid next to my sleeping husband and wondered if he’d wake to find that I’d died during the night. My fear may have been exaggerated, but it wasn’t completely unreasonable. My fever was over 102, and the number of white blood cells available to fight infection in my body was dangerously close to the number of hairs on my head: zero.
One month earlier, I’d been diagnosed with angiosarcoma. This rare, aggressive cancer threatened my hopes to celebrate my 35th birthday, see my three small children grow up, and reach milestone anniversaries with my husband. I was fighting for more Thanksgivings and determined to enjoy this one to the fullest. But it was hard to be thankful.
From the world’s perspective, I didn’t have much to be thankful for. I was stricken with a terrible cancer and facing months of difficult treatment. I was bald, sick, fatigued, and scared. And yet, the truth of God’s Word challenged my thinking: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Give Thanks in All Circumstances
Some days, I didn’t feel like rejoicing. Chemo made my mind too foggy to pray. I struggled to find reasons to give thanks.
With great relief, I noticed the Scripture doesn’t say, “Give thanks for all circumstances.” God didn’t ask me to give thanks for cancer—in fact, I believe He hates cancer, along with all the effects of this sin-plagued, fallen world. Instead, He called me to give thanks in all circumstances, and He’s graciously teaching me to do so.
Maybe giving thanks is a challenge for you right now. I’ve been there, and I’m sorry for your pain. When our life is a mess, our future uncertain, or our hearts broken, how can we give thanks in those circumstances?
Give Thanks for God’s Character
When we’re hurting, God doesn’t ask us to wear a fake smile and humor Him with a Pinterest-inspired thankfulness craft. Because of His steadfast love for us, we can bring all our burdens to Him. He hears our cries for rescue, restoration, and relief from our suffering.
Then the Lord gently lifts our tear-stained faces and shows us He is with us. He cares for us, He is at work, and He can be trusted in our trials. Our Heavenly Father lovingly reminds us that He is the reason we give thanks in all circumstances. Our circumstances constantly change, but the truth of His character is our solid and sure foundation.
When we struggle with troubled relationships, we can give thanks for the Lord’s everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). When our bodies are exhausted, sick, or hurting, we can give thanks for the Lord’s sustaining strength (Isaiah 40:29-31). When we face financial pressure, we can give thanks for our daily bread as we trust His faithful provision (Philippians 4:19). When we feel the grip of anxiety or feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us, we can give thanks for God’s sovereign care in every moment (Romans 8:28).
Give Thanks for God’s Salvation
On that Thanksgiving Day years ago, I gave thanks for a departed fever and a hospital-free Thanksgiving. Other times, I thanked God for small encouragements like a well-timed card from a friend or my favorite song on the radio. Today it’s easy for me to give thanks: for the hair on my head, for the years of good health He’s granted, and for the memories I’ve made with my family.
But if someday I find myself without these blessings, I’ll always have reasons to give thanks: the sacrifice of God’s Son for my salvation, the riches of His grace and mercy, and the righteousness of Christ given freely to me. I’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and nothing in all creation can separate me from His love (Ephesians 1:3, Romans 8:38-39).
The One who created the world also gave His life for me and conquered every enemy that can threaten me—even death (Hebrews 1:2, Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). The Lord is my light and my salvation, so I can face each day without fear (Psalm 27:1). Because my salvation in Christ is secure, I can give thanks to Him for His gracious gift, even in suffering.
God’s will for us is thankfulness in all circumstances. In His Word, we find an abundance of reasons to give Him thanks and praise. By the power of His Spirit, we can praise Him for who He is and what he has done for us in Christ—even in our most difficult days.
About the Author:
Marissa Henley is a Christ-follower, wife, and mom of three who lives in Northwest Arkansas. Following her battle with rare cancer, she wrote the book Loving Your Friend through Cancer to encourage and equip the body of Christ to provide meaningful support to others. Most days, you’ll find her drinking a latte while shuttling her three kids around town, wondering if the dog will ever learn to stay and if she’ll ever love cooking as much as her husband loves eating. She would love to connect with you on social media or at www.marissahenley.com.