We’ve heard it hundreds of times: 2020 has been a difficult year in so many respects. The coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 250,000 Americans and has completely disrupted our way of life this year. I read a line from one psychologist who says we’re no longer going through a crisis. She says a crisis only lasts about six weeks. After that, the crisis situation becomes one of chronic stress. And that’s where many of us find ourselves today.
But as Winston Churchill famously said, you should never let a good crisis go to waste. As difficult as this year has been, I think we’ve also learned some invaluable lessons in 2020 — lessons that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives. I’ve recently been reflecting on some of these lessons, which has given rise to this blog series (and a corresponding sermon series) entitled: Lessons Learned: How Not to Waste a Pandemic.
One of the most enduring lessons we’ve learned during this pandemic: the importance of gratitude.
2020 has repeatedly taught us to be grateful for the things we once took for granted:
- Eating out at our favorite restaurant
- Going to the movies or to ball games
- Hugging our brothers and sisters in church
These are simple things, but 2020 has taught us not to take the little things for granted — even something like being able to buy toilet paper at the store!
Many social media users participate in a monthlong celebration of gratitude in November. And that’s fitting, certainly in light of the Thanksgiving holiday coming up this week. But the Bible teaches the Christian to practice gratitude in each season of life.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:18
This is a simple verse but a profound truth. According to the Bible, God wills for His people to be grateful in all circumstances. At first blush, this sounds odd, even unattainable the more we consider it. Does this mean we are to thank God for every thing that happens? Are we to pause and give thanks for every experience, no matter how mundane? And what of evil? Are we to be thankful each time our hearts are broken and our lives are shattered by the circumstances of life?
I don’t think that’s exactly the counsel we find here. If we attempted to thank God for every bit of minutiae in our lives, we’d never get around to doing anything else. Even more importantly, we’re never advised to rejoice in the wake of tragedy. For example, I live in the state of Alabama. We wouldn’t thank God that over 3,000 of our fellow Alabamians have died due to the coronavirus so far. That’s simply heartbreaking. But as we’ve noted, there are always lessons to be learned, even in the midst of heartache. And we can certainly give thanks for the lessons that draw us closer to God or cultivate a deeper understanding of His character.
Giving thanks in all circumstances is about maintaining a constant posture of gratitude and being open to the possibility that God can be present, even in the midst of the worst of circumstances.