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Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

We all suffer in this fallen world, yet we all still have reasons to be thankful. Pursuing wonder expands our perspective so we can shift our focus from our changing circumstances to God’s unchanging love. As we look for wonder, we can find gratitude, as well. One of my friends lost her job when her company closed the office where she worked. She also faced several other crises at the same time. It seemed like her whole world came crashing down, despite her hard work and faithfulness. Then, after a few months, she found another good job and her other struggles gradually improved. My friend remained positive through it all -- in good and bad circumstances alike. What helped her do so, she said, was intentionally looking for glimpses of God’s work in her daily life and then giving thanks for those moments of wonder.

Now she continues to do so. She starts each morning with prayer and meditation on a Bible passage to focus her mind on God right away. Then, throughout each day, she simply pays attention and gives thanks for the awe-inspiring moments she encounters. Those moments of wonder often happen through something simple: an invigorating walk in the woods, a joke she shares with a friend, a cake she bakes, or a song one of her daughters plays on their piano. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Bible urges us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we choose to be grateful in challenging circumstances, we don’t have to be thankful for those circumstances themselves. Instead, we can simply express our gratitude for our relationship with God, whose love for us is constant in all circumstances. Making that choice to focus our gratitude on God rather than on circumstances changes our perspective. The more we choose to look beyond our circumstances to God, the more wonder we can notice and enjoy. In the process, we can gain more reasons to be thankful. In Wake Up to Wonder, I describe well-being research that shows how gratitude helps people be more alert (which helps them notice the wonder around them) and experience more positive emotions such as joy (which can lead to awe). I love how the words “gratitude” and “grace” share the same root: the Latin word “gratus.” When we choose to be grateful, we become full of grace. In that state, we can experience wonder in even the most challenging circumstances.


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