On being thankful "for" everything vs. being thankful "in" everything...
I have very much appreciated the responses to the Random post from 11/18. The point has been well made by several people that there is a major difference between these two little words, "for" and "in." Speaking to our situation specifically, and for that matter to any challenge, struggle, or tragedy one may face in this life, it is unfathomable that God would ask us to be thankful "for" these things. Thankful "in" them, yes, I understand that. Thankful despite them, ditto. Mind you, it is a struggle to daily (actually, moment to moment) display this attitude genuinely and from the heart, with integrity if you will, but it IS possible. Not in our own strength, but with the help of Christ and in the power of the Spirit, it does happen. I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who has pointed this out, and I have some thoughts that I have been wrestling with on that, but before I do, I think it would be good to shed a little light on the context of my friend's statement (i.e., the Bible says that we are supposed to be thankful for everything).
It's extremely important for me to point out that his words were definitely not directed at me! He was actually referring to himself, saying that he is selective in his thanks and praise... or something to that effect, meaning that he felt like he shows more gratitude when it's convenient for him than when it is costly and, well, not so convenient... a "fair weather" thanker/praiser you might say. :-) I can identify. Who can't? He talked rather transparently about his failures at praising God and being thankful for the negatives in his life... but, he said, that's what the Bible tells us to do. At that point in the conversation, as I mentioned in the earlier post, thoughts of losing Luke immediately began to race thru my mind, as well as all sorts of other things that occur every day in this broken mess of a world... things that are not in any way deserving of thanks or praise, things that God surely, in my mind at least, is certainly not pleased with... so how could He possibly demand thanks? He doesn't. At least that's the way I see it.
Having said all of that, and I hope this is making some sense, here are some thoughts on the subject.
I began to think the other day, What DOES the Bible actually say about this? That's a good and necessary question, don't you think? I mean afterall, we need to know what God is saying to us in His Word. So, here's what I found... and I know that what I have to say is definitely NOT a complete picture of what the Bible says about being thankful "for" or "in" trials... it is not exhaustive, but rather selective... so I continue to welcome (and want!) your thoughts and observations and experiences and "whispers from the Spirit" on this.
What I found are two primary verses that speak to this subject. The first is Ephesians 5:20, the second 1 Thessalonians 5:18. What I also found was that the latter is understandable to me and therefore encouraging, while the former is... not so understandable and therefore quite disturbing.
First, the understandable, I-can-kind-of-wrap-my-brain-around-this-one part:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (ESV)
The key word, of course, is "in". As in "give thanks in all circumstances." I even checked it out in a bunch of other translations and paraphrases (which, fyi, are listed at the end of this post).
Ok, so I get the point. I'm ok with it. Really. I don't know how exactly, but I can tell you in all sincerity that I am thankful, more so now than ever, and even comforted and joyful and confident in Christ, again more so now than ever, despite the fact that a most horrific thing happened to Nicol and I and Summer and our entire family. I'm thankful. Broken? Crushed? Confused? Disheartened? Yes, all of that too... for sure. But I'm thankful in Christ. I'm thankful because He offers hope. I don't like what has happened and I don't understand it, but I know that this is not the end. There are days when nothing makes sense and I have to fight back anger and bitterness and disappointment and depression and fear, but I know that our faith is real. I know that God has been with us. I know that He has made it possible for us to keep on keeping on. I know that He has given us a ton of grace. I know that the cross and the resurrection are more evident and real to us than ever. I know that Jesus Christ is the best news that we have ever heard. I know these things because we've experienced the love and mercy of the God who promises to never leave us nor forsake us, to listen when we cry out to Him.
The bottom line is that, no matter what happens to any of us, God will give us the grace to continue to see Him for who He is: a relentlessly loving, faithful friend and savior to those who are broken, crushed in spirit, struggling with sin, fighting with demons, stumbling and tripping over the same stupid tendencies that one way or the other keep coming back to haunt them... people just like me.
And for that I am unbelievably thankful.
Now for the disturbing, I-just-don't-get-this part:
Ephesians 5:20 says, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (ESV)
The key word here? You got it: "for." What!? Are you kidding me? Give thanks always and "for" everything? Puhlease!!! Surely it doesn't mean that. Must be a bad translation, right? Wrong. You can read a baker's dozen of others listed below that say the same thing.
Look, I don't know what to say, so I'm not going to say anything else. Not going to try to figure it out or explain it away. If anyone has something to offer on this I AM ALL EARS. This is the kind of thing I don't understand. I don't want to understand it. Maybe I'm just not ready to. Then again, I'll never be ready to. All I know is that it makes no sense to me. Not that God has to make sense to me, but it just seems out of character for Him. How could He expect anyone to be thankful "for" a tragegy the likes of which we have been thru?
Lord, you know my heart. I do not want to come off here as irreverent or unfaithful in any way. Forgive me if I have. I do not want to offend Your good name. You are good and kind and Your Word is eternally good and true in every way. I thank You for that. Please give me (all of us) the grace to understand the things that I cannot now comprehend as well as the grace to be ok with what I will never understand. Amen.
Grace and peace to all.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Version Comparison:
- "in every thing give thanks" (YLT; KJV)
- "in everything give thanks" (NASB; ASV; NKJV)
- "give thanks in all circumstances" (ESV; NIV)
- "give thanks in everything" (HCSB)
- "be thankful in all circumstances" (NLT)
- "Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks]" (Amplified Bible)
- "thank God no matter what happens" (The Message)
- "Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ" (CEV)
- "and give thanks no matter what happens" (NCV)
Ephesians 5:20 Version Comparison:
- "giving thanks always for all things" (YLT; KJV)
- "always giving thanks for all things" (NASB)
- "giving thanks always for all things" (NKJV; ASV)
- "giving thanks always and for everything" (ESV; HCSB)
- "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything" (NIV)
- "And give thanks for everything" (NLT)
- "At all times and for everything giving thanks" (Amplified Bible)
- "Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything" (The Message)
- "Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to give thanks to God the Father for everything" (CEV)
- "Always give thanks to God the Father for everything" (NCV)