Somewhere in the Bible, it is commanded, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Does that include the pandemic that pins this planet and the United States down this Thanksgiving?
As far as I can tell, the command does not indicate an exclusion clause. Though let’s be quick to recognize this is not a command to “give thanks for all circumstances”— it is a command to “give thanks in all circumstances.”
After all, how could we possibly thank God for the disease that has taken away our loved ones (1.41 million deaths globally — 260,000 deaths across the United States as I write these lines)?
No, the command is specific — “Give thanks in [not for] all circumstances.”
After all, how could we possibly thank God for the disease that has stripped away our personal economic security?
“A new Pew Research Center survey finds that, overall, one-in-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started, a third have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet, and about one-in-six have borrowed money from friends or family or gotten food from a food bank. As was the case earlier this year, these types of experiences continue to be more common among adults with lower incomes, those without a college degree and Black and Hispanic Americans.”*
The apostle Paul, himself no stranger to economic deprivation and intense personal suffering, is clear in his apostolic command: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, NIV).
But really — we’re supposed to find a reason for thanksgiving in the midst of this COVID-19 onslaught — are you serious?
May I make a humble effort to suggest a small list of possible things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving? Perhaps your list will look quite different:
Did you catch that? What appears to be against us “will work for our good.” That’s what God did at the cross — took the enemy’s absolute worst and transformed it into salvation’s absolute best — as only Jesus can do.
Gratitude? Are you kidding? A blessed Thanksgiving, indeed!
The original version of this commentary was posted on the New Perceptions television ministry blog, The Fourth Watch.
* Kim Parker, Rachel Minkin, and Jesse Bennett, “Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues to Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest,” Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends, September 24, 2020, www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/.