A policeman was interviewing a man whose store had just been robbed. Everything was taken.
“It’s bad,” said the owner, “but I’m thankful that he robbed me today instead of yesterday.”
“Why is that?” the policeman asked.
“Because today everything was marked down 50%. So, I only lost half as much.”
It is easy to be grateful when we get something good – a raise, an “A”, or a compliment. It is much harder to be thankful when we get something bad – a termination notice, an “F”, or an insult.
God doesn’t expect us to be thankful for those, or for other bad things that come our way. He doesn’t tell us to be thankful for all circumstances, but he does tell us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Why would God want us to give thanks in every situation, regardless how bad it is? Well, for starters, because it is only fair. In the worst of situations, we still owe God our gratitude. For the store owner who was robbed, he should still be thankful – that he was alive to tell about the robbery, that he owned a store to be robbed, and that he lives in a country where a police officer would at least try to catch the thief. Everything we have is a gift from God. Losing one part of it should not prevent us from being grateful for what remains – or from being thankful for enjoying it while we had it.
It’s also important to give thanks in every circumstance to help us cope with the circumstance. In the context of the Scripture above, giving thanks is connected to “Be joyful always” (v. 16). If there is no gratitude, there can be no joy.
Sitting in prison, facing possible execution, the apostle Paul wrote of finding the secret of being content regardless of the circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). Part of that secret was finding something to be thankful for even when much of the situation looked bleak. Despite his situation, Paul expressed gratitude for the Christians to whom he was writing, for the spread of his teaching, and for his hope that even in death he would win. Because of his thankfulness, he could be happy.
You may find yourself today in the best of all possible circumstances. Or you may be in the worst of all possible situations. Either way, thank God for what is good. He’ll be glorified and you’ll be happier.