There is perhaps no more difficult Bible verse to live out than Ephesians 5:20: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So our expressions of thanksgiving to God are to be continual and all-encompassing. There is no moment of the day when we should not be giving thanks to God, and there is no event of the day for which we should not thank Him.
Now, if only our lives were perfect; no difficulties, no sickness, no frustrating family members, no irritating coworkers; just constant, day-in and day-out wonderfulness and thrilling joy and relaxing peace. “Then,” we may think, “we certainly would be thanking God all the time!”
But a robust view of God’s sovereignty forces us to say that, in one sense, our lives today are perfect. For there is no difficulty, sickness, frustration, or irritation that is outside of the sovereign plan of God for our lives. The daily cup of life that we sip was measured, its ingredients carefully chosen, and lovingly poured out by the hand of God. If we look at our lives through the lens of faith, we will see that even the sins of others against us are within God’s plan for our lives. For Psalm 105:17 describes the sin of Joseph’s brothers in selling him into slavery this way: “He [God Himself] sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and martyr, said the following in a devotional message given to a hospitalized Christian friend: “Everything we cannot thank God for, we reproach him for.”1
Reading that sentence is like poking myself in the soul with a sharp object. How unthankful I am! How much do I reproach God for! “The traffic is too slow; I’m not happy enough; there’s not enough time to get done what I want to; I wish I didn’t have to… [fill in the blank].”
May God give us a spirit of gratitude and contentment, even when we are suffering – especially when we are suffering. May the thoughts of our heart and the words of our lips be an overflow of gratitude to our loving heavenly Father.
1. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, p. 412.