Dr. Dan Hayden •
Is it possible to be thankful in the midst of crisis and adversity? Human nature screams, No. God whispers, Yes!
The key to having a thankful spirit during a difficult situation is perspective. If you feel that you are alone and abandoned to your circumstance, you undoubtedly will be fearful and anxious. But suppose you knew that someone was there to help – someone who had the resources and strength to make a difference. Fear would be replaced by hope and an anxious spirit would dissolve into thanksgiving. That is the message of God from the pen of the apostle Paul.
In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
So in hard times do you pray with a thankful spirit? Are you thankful to God for His sustaining grace in every situation, good and bad? Well, if not, I have to tell you that you’ll never experience peace without thanksgiving.
The word for thanksgiving here in the original Greek text is the word eucharistia – “to show favor for what is good; to be thankful or full of thanks and praise.” The prefix eu means good, and the noun to which it is attached, charis, means favor, or grace. So the word eucharistia has the idea of expressing good favor toward someone, or in other words, to be thankful. This is the word from which we get the word, Eucharist (the celebration of the Lord’s table). When we celebrate the Eucharist (the communion), we are literally expressing thanks or good favor to Christ for His sacrifice for our sins.
Now, the text says that when we make our requests to God by the means of prayer and supplication, we are to do it with thanksgiving. In other words, we are to come to God with a positive spirit. We need to be thankful for who He is. We need to be thankful that He’s interested in our situation. We need to be thankful that He’s there for us, and that we can rely upon Him to meet our needs. The point is this: if we want to be relieved of our worry and to experience the wonderful peace of God, then we have to bring everything to God in prayer – wrapped in the spirit of thanksgiving.
Anyone who studies the lives of the early American pilgrims realizes the tough times in which they lived. Difficult winters in the northeast threatened their very survival, as did sickness and the hostile environment around them. Living off the land meant long hours of arduous work; and with none of our modern conveniences, simply securing the basics of life (shelter, food and clothing) demanded all of their time and energy.
Yet they were sustained by a strong faith in the goodness of God. So, at the end of the harvest season they took the time to express their gratitude to God for His provision of their needs. In hard and difficult times, the pilgrims still lived with a sense of thanksgiving.
Well, that is what God is asking us to do. You see, we can either complain about the hard times (with an anxious spirit about the future), or we can lay all of our concerns before Him in thankful prayer that Christ is with us in every circumstance and at all times to strengthen and encourage us.
So, there it is. This isn’t philosophical idealism. It’s a realistic promise from God that thankful prayer will replace anxiety with an unbelievable peace.
Hey, remember: Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday – it is an attitude.