Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
I settled onto the leather cushion of the driver seat with a sigh. It had been one of those mornings. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Ellie was fussy, Finnegan was mischievous, and my alarm went off way too early for what my body needed. The off-ness of the day became comical. I filled up my water bottle in the sink, after momentarily forgetting about it, water sprayed across the entire kitchen, making a puddle in the middle of the room. Late for an appointment I made several trips to the car, back and forth fetching items I had forgotten – items that were impossible to make it through the day without: my coffee, Ellie’s pacifier, my running shoes and my iPhone. I was going to be late, but I had triumphed – I had held my attitude together in spite of every little quirky thing going wrong to convince me otherwise.
My car was finally packed for the day, Ellie was content in her car seat and I had my mega to-do list for the day in hand, but then I noticed something odd: my butt was wet.
In my exhaustion I had put a half-sealed water bottle on my seat. And it leaked everywhere. I of course did not discover this leak until I sat down, ready to drive. I was literally sitting in a mega puddle. My pants soaked, the clock ticked away reminding me of just how late I was for my appointment, so I decided to rock the wet pants. I had no choice.
And then I was forcibly given a choice. When I turned the keys in the ignition the car sputtered.I wasn’t going anywhere.
I’ll blame it on the hormones of being a breastfeeding mom, but the tears flowed. Sometimes a good cry is a beautiful thing, and in my case today, it was.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. That means giving thanks when my car doesn’t start, when my baby is fussy and when I am sleep deprived. It means giving thanks for inconveniences, for criticism from others and for the hiccups of life. We don’t have to be thankful for everything, but rather in everything, a difference seemingly slight, yet noteworthy. It is in the small difference between the words for and in that we can really live out gratitude in the way in which the Bible commands us to, the way that builds us up and improves our lives. We can’t control the circumstances of our lives, but we can control how we react to those circumstances.
I don’t have to be grateful for the fact that my car didn’t start this morning or for the impending and unexpected cost of the mechanical repair needed to get it back on the road, but I do have to be grateful in the situation itself. In this case, I can give thanks in the fact that I have a car in the first place. Add to that the fact that my husband also has a car, that we have bicycles and that we live somewhere with public bus access. We have transportation options, and while being out one car may be inconvenient, it certainly isn’t worthy of any negative emotions, no matter how frustrating or inopportune for my day it might have been.
Today I was challenged to live out the difference between the for’s and the in’s in my circumstances. If I really want to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:18, I can give thanks in the circumstance that my car broke down at a convenient and safe location – my house. On a day boasting of 100-degree heat and 80% humidity, I had the luxury and haven of a well air-conditioned house. I may have been inconvenienced by the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere and that I spent hours of my day on the phone with tow truck companies and mechanics, but in the grand scheme of things, my day is still worthy of celebration. The circumstances of this day challenged me to live out my gratitude through an intentional attitude. Though I oscillated emotionally between frustration and thankfulness with each hour of the passing day, today gave me the opportunity to practice choosing to win with my attitude.
The challenge to “give thanks in all circumstances” is a powerful one, one that is easier said than done, but one that is do-able with the right heart. Give yourself permission to battle for gratitude and to fight for a thankful heart, particularly on the days when it doesn’t come naturally to you and when it would be easier to just pout. You can win the battle of your mind, but first you have to believe that you can and you have to celebrate the opportunities – the bad days of life – that you are given to practice training your attitude.