It’s almost natural for polite people to say “thank you” for a nicety done by another person. When God does something good for me that’s recognizable as a thank-you moment, I might have a decent batting average for rightfully thanking Him within a reasonably polite amount of time: for a freebie, timely approval of permits, my children did well, my spouse was nice to me, I won a susbtantial raffle prize, I got healed, I got what I prayed for. The list goes on.
1 Thess 5:18a
Give thanks in all circumstances.
For the times when my prayers seem to go unanswered or answered in a way I did not ask for or worse, turned out the opposite of what I was hoping for, the above verse says that I should still be thankful. I am to give thanks in ALL circumstances.
For these bad or ugly circumstances, God continues to be the same. He is good, He is in control, He is a Promise-Keeper, and in all things He works for the good of those who love Him. I need to judge these circumstances by the filter of what God’s character is and not judge God’s character by the nature of these circumstances. By focusing on Him instead of the circumstance, I am better enabled to breathe and led to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2). By focusing on Jesus, Peter was able to do the supernatural which was to walk on water (Matt 14:29-31) and when Peter took off his eyes from Jesus and onto the strong wind and waves (Matt 14:30), that was when he was terrified and began to sink.
In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose to be Christlike (Rom 8:28-29). It is usually through the bad and ugly circumstances that the Christlike character has a chance to prosper. The bad or ugly circumstance, if given to God, can be used by Him for good.
Rom 5:3-4 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Heb 12:10-11 10 They (earthly parents) disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
God always purposes good for us. Like a good father who trains a child he loves, God also trains us, builds our character. These are lifelong lessons that serve us not only for the moment but for our lifetime, they not only benefit us but those who come after us. God created us, loved us, saved us, not to be overindulged spoiled brats but to be persons of character who will live meaningful lives leaving a legacy that outlives our physical lives. The harvest is peace. The harvest is righteousness. Neither could be bought with all the money in the world. At the last breath of life, peace and righteousness will be priceless.
The entirety of our first verse is:
1 Thess 5:118 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
When we experience something that looks bad or ugly to us, we can still be thankful that God allowed it to happen because in Christ Jesus, these circumstances will be used for our own good, to produce the character which we need to have. This bad or ugly circumstance is also the opportunity for us to see God’s victory. The badder or uglier the circumstance, the greater God’s glory will be revealed when He enables us to overcome it.