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Happy Thanksgiving!

Sometime in the next week, you’ll undoubtedly see 1 Thessalonians 5:18 pop up somewhere: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

What a beautiful verse.

But wait, there’s more!

In this case, the verse numbers break up a single sentence. Despite how well it fits on a Facebook infographic or a bumper sticker, I don’t think Paul intended for this to stand alone when he wrote it. There are some important prerequisites to perpetual thankfulness that we might just miss.

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (verses 16-18)

How do we deal with good stuff? With joy.

How do we deal with hard stuff? With prayer.

And as we load that balance, however it tips, we give thanks…always.

As a whole, this is an instruction to take inventory and take action. We’re not supposed to stick our heads in the sand, ignore all of the circumstances around us, and give thanks no matter what. It’s not about getting ourselves psyched up and faking it.

We’re supposed to recognize the good and the bad, take spiritual action, and give thanks in spite of our circumstances, trusting that God holds the outcomes in His hand. When coupled with the rest of the instructions in the verse, thankfulness is part of the work, and also part of the outcome of a healthy spiritual walk.

So if you’re having trouble finding your thankfulness in this season, you’re not alone and you don’t need to fake it.

Let’s instead start by rejoicing in what is good, praying for what’s not good, and then try thankfulness again. Repeat until desired thankfulness is achieved.