“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Surely when Paul wrote these words he was exaggerating, right? There are some situations and circumstances where we can’t possibly find anything to give thanks for, aren’t there? Consider these words by the great 18th century preacher and scholar Matthew Henry, entered in his diary after he was robbed, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else.”
I think in Henry’s words, especially in that last part, we can see the secret to being thankful in everything: it is to be less focused on ourselves and what happens to us and more focused on others and what happens to them. Paul said it like this, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4). In Romans 12:15 he wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Believers, who, in everything give thanks, see opportunities for serving others instead of focusing on their own problems. They have an “others” focus. They may not have two nickels to rub together but they’ve got a kind word to those who need to hear it. These folks are able to go to bed at night, with thanksgiving in their hearts, because God has blessed them with people to serve.