Sincerity in Thanks
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! (Psalms 107:21-22 ESV).
By Percival Blenman
Imagine a man who heads home from his job after a long, busy day of work. He suddenly realizes that he has forgotten the anniversary present for his wife that he intended to buy that day. So, he stops at a store to buy something and finds the perfect gift after looking around. The line to pay is long, and just before his turn comes up, he reaches for his wallet, but it is not there. He feels in every pants pocket, but it is nowhere to be found. Finally, he panics that he may have left his wallet at work. In desperation, he reaches inside his suit coat pocket and eureka! There is his wallet! Barely audible, he whispers, “Oh, thank God.”
In this case, he may not be a believer nor have sincerely meant the words of thanks that he had just expressed. But the truth is that many people say these words without giving much thought to them, even if they are agnostics or atheists. We, as consecrated believers, have much reason to be thankful to God. But do we thoughtfully consider the words of thanks that we give to our Heavenly Father?
Under the Mosaic law, the todah1 was introduced to the Israelites. The todah was a thanksgiving offering made to Jehovah. Under this arrangement, an Israelite could make an offering of thanks to God that would include “unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil” (Leviticus 7:12-15). However, today we no longer offer thanks to God in this way. Instead, under the new arrangement made possible through Jesus, we offer our thanks to God through prayer and singing that glorifies Him (Psalms 100:1, 2, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Colossians 4:2, Philippians 4:6).
(1) Strong’s 8426, todah, thanksgiving — found at Leviticus 7:12, 13, 15, Leviticus 22:29, Joshua 7:19, 2 Chronicles 33:16, Ezra 10:11, Nehemiah 12:38, Psalms 26:7, Psalms 42:4, Psalms 50:14, 23
As believers, we usually give thanks before eating a meal, following Jesus’s example (Matthew 15:36, John 6:23, Luke 22:17-19). But this should not be the only situation where we might thank our Heavenly Father. Just as the man who misplaced his wallet experienced momentary distress, we often thank our Father in Heaven when He delivers us from some distressful experience in our lives. However, the difference for us is that we should sincerely thank Jehovah. The Psalmist encourages this thankfulness (Psalms 107:1). We ought to thank God for delivering us from painful experiences and trials. Yet should we not also thank the Lord for the trying experiences themselves? Thanking God for a harrowing experience may at first seem strange, but Biblical principles support this thought. Note the Apostle Paul’s directive in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV).
The key phrase in Paul’s admonition is “in all circumstances.” David also expressed this similar outlook: “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips” (Psalms 34:1 Berean Study Bible). So, it is appropriate for us to thank God for the delivery from the fiery trials and the trials themselves (James 1:2). So, why should we view troubles and challenging times as a blessing and cause for thankfulness? James adds that the testing of our faith “produces steadfastness” (James 1:3, 4).
Trials an Exercise of Faith
Consider the Olympic athlete in training. She puts herself through grueling workout sessions intended to help her perfect her performance. In itself, the training routine may be far from enjoyable. Still, it produces fruit when she conquers the challenges of Olympic competition. And so, with us as Christians, grueling trials are not pleasant. However, persistence develops endurance (Hebrews 12:11, 2 Peter 1:5-8). Thus, we should think of trials as an exercise routine for our faith.
Another interesting fact is the experience that we get from trials gives us cause to be thankful. The reason for this is, God allows his children to undergo tests that challenge their character. These trials should be considered lessons that help us refine our Christian personalities like the Olympic athlete above with her exercises. In Hebrews 12:8-9 (ESV) we read, “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” So, trials confirm that God sees us as His children and part of His family.
In the previous quotation from Hebrews (above), Paul indicates that if God does not discipline us, then we are “illegitimate children” (Hebrews 12:8). Considering the previous scripture, let us look at an unfortunate example where a father has two sons. One son is his natural-born son, while the other is his stepson. In this example, the father does not pay much attention to the stepson and allows him to do whatever he wants. On the other hand, he closely observes his natural son’s behavior and disciplines him to teach him moral lessons. It is clear from this example that the father is showing greater love and favoritism to his natural son while overlooking his stepson. The stepson is being ignored and neglected because the father does not consider him part of the family.
Thus, in our relationship with God, we want to be seen as His natural children. Thankfully, through our Lord Jesus, we have been placed as sons of God and enjoy that privilege (see Ephesians 1:3-5 RVIC). So, when we experience discipline from God, we should reflect the attitude of one Christian woman who would say to God after enduring a trial, “Thank you, Father, may I have another.” As strange as her response might appear on the surface, she was grateful because she realized that God was disciplining her as His natural child. As a result, she experienced joy from the lessons she received (via discipline) from her Heavenly Father.
Therefore, persevering through trials with God’s help gives us reason to be thankful to God. While experiencing hardships, we are assured that we will not be forsaken. We have a lifeline through prayer where we can petition God for the strength to make it through the harrowing experience with the assurance that He will hear our prayers and deliver us (see Psalms 107:6,7, Deuteronomy 31:6, Proverbs 18:10). When we consecrate ourselves to serve God, He offers us freedom from excessive fear and uncertainty. We know, with confidence, that regardless of what difficulty we might experience, we can take all our concerns to our Father in heaven (Psalms 107:13, 14, Psalms 46:1-3).
Clinical or temporal depression can rob us of joy in Christ. Even with solid faith, we might experience times when sadness can cast a dark cloud over us. Human nature would make us feel inclined at such a time to hide and isolate ourselves. The cause of our sadness might be the result of decisions that we made, or decisions made by others. At other times, this sadness might be due to unforeseen events or a biological condition that brings us to deep depression. Imagine sorrow getting us to the point that we “couldn’t stand the sight of food” (Psalms 107:18 The Message Bible). At this time, more than any other, we need to turn to Jehovah in prayer that He might heal our spirit (Psalms 107:19). The healing relief we experience just from the act of unloading our burdens onto God can be a cause for thankfulness (Psalms 107:20).
Prayer does not guarantee that our trial will be taken away. We might pray for relief from the same affliction for years, and it may never disappear. This lack of results does not mean that God does not care about our suffering. This condition may indicate that we may have to change our thinking about this trial or affliction and pray for endurance regardless of the outcome. The Apostle Paul prayed to the Heavenly Father three times regarding the same infirmity and eventually received this response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9 (ESV).
Although Paul continued to suffer through afflictions, he attributed his strength while enduring his trials in the flesh to Christ (Philippians 4:13). So, when we endure hardships or infirmities that do not seem to go away, let us say as our Lord Jesus did, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 (ESV). And, even during our trials, we should continue to thank God for all things through Christ (Ephesians 5:20).
While trials and afflictions may dampen our joy, fear can rob us of it entirely. Sailors tell of the frightening and humbling experience of navigating the ocean during a severe storm. Imagine facing swells over sixty feet high! It is human nature to be anxious during such a situation. Jesus’ disciples encountered such an experience when they called out to him for help (Mark 4:35-39, Psalms 107:23-29). Consider both their astonishment and joy when Christ calmed the sea just by speaking to it! This miracle certainly gave them cause for gratitude.
Servants of Jehovah have the assurance that amidst the oppression and wickedness that surrounds them or even affects them, their Heavenly Father hears every prayer they offer. He will reward their faithfulness by helping them endure and overcome trials and temptations. He promises eventual deliverance from the wicked (Psalms 37:10, 107:37-42).
The Bible assures us that God’s love for us is unwavering (Deuteronomy 31:6). Therefore, we must strive to remove doubt and fear from our minds and persevere in prayer under all conditions (Psalms 107:43, Colossians 4:2). Thus, with joy in our hearts, let us free ourselves from anxiety over the temporal matters of this life. And, with thanksgiving, let us take all our supplications to God (Philippians 4:4-6). Whether in joy or sorrow, trials, deliverance from difficult experiences, depression, fear or anxiety, or affliction at the hands of the wicked, we have reason to be grateful. Let us continue to thank Jehovah for His “steadfast love” and joyfully proclaim to others of the wonderful works He has done while offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalms 107:21, 22).