How does a Christian give thanks for terrible events? Fatal disease, personal tragedy, national catastrophe, evil men and inhuman atrocities are just some of the grim things that are always occurring in this world. Should a Christian give thanks for things like murder or child abuse?
The Bible commands Christians to give thanks in every thing, give thanks for every thing and give thanks all the time.
“In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (PHilippians 4:6)
“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“By Him therefore let us therefore offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
How can a compassionate Christian obey these commands?
This is done with that realization that giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Consider the most inhuman evil ever perpetrated in the world. The rejection of the Son of God followed by His unjust execution is the most horrible thing to ever happen. Yet Christian’s always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christian’s gather to remember and give thanks to God for the death of Jesus. Jesus Himself gave thanks at the first Lord’s Supper. Though He knew the suffering waiting for Him Jesus gave thanks to God in that time of great personal agony. Jesus did not deny the horrors of what was coming. He knew them, looked them full in the face and thanked God. Christian’s can thank God for terrible things without acting as if evil is good or pain is pleasant.
Giving thanks is not just about the thanking God for the pleasant things we receive from Him. It is easy to give thanks for the answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than these blessings. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the good purposes and perfect wisdom of God.
We give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because they are working in us eternal good. God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is with our eternal gain. Giving thanks looks beyond the present to the promised. Continual thankfulness looks past the temporary to the eternal good that God is working.
We give thanks because God is good, God is sovereign, God is accomplishing the eternal plan promised in Scripture, God is redeeming men and God is using every situation to change the Christian into the likeness of Jesus. We give thanks because no matter how much the situation changes, God is the same and He is always accomplishing what is best for those who love Him.