Cultivating Thankfulness


When reading Trusting God on my flight to England this week, something Jerry Bridges wrote caught my attention:

Because God is sovereign, wise, and good, we can trust Him…. Paul said to “give thanks in all circumstances.” [1 Thes. 5:18] We are to be thankful in bad times and good times, for adversities as well as for blessings. All circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable to our desires are to be occasions for thanksgiving.

Trusting God, pp. 221

Bridges goes on to remind readers that our problem with not cultivating an attitude of thankfulness is not tied to forgetfulness, it’s tied to our sinful nature. And therefore, we must recognize God’s sovereignty, wisdom and love as they work themselves out  through all the unexpected twists and turns of our lives. “It is,” Bridges writes, “the firm belief that God is at work in all things—all our circumstances—for our good” (p. 223).

To derive the fullest comfort and encouragement from Romans 8:28[“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”]…we must realize that God is at work in a preactive, not reactive fashion. That is, God does not just respond to an adversity in our lives to make the best of a bad situation. He knows before He initiates or permits the adversity exactly how He will use if for our good. God knew exactly what He was doing before he allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. Joseph recognized this when he said to his brothers, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God….You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 45:8, 50:20).

Trusting God, p. 223 (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that?

God doesn’t just use our bad circumstances for good—He intends them.

I don’t know about you, but my family’s been having a really rough year. With the miscarriage a few months back (and nearly losing my wife in the process), financial strain, stress from relatives and just an overburdened schedule, it’s been really tough to get out of bed some days. Seriously, if I could sleep for 100 hours, I just might. (Does that constitute a coma?)

But there’s so much to be thankful for in all of this, because I know that God has intended all of this—all of it!—for our good.

And we’re seeing that brought to bear in our lives. Our marriage, while never bad, is I think the strongest it’s ever been (I’m hoping Emily will back me up here). We’re communicating more and actively working together to ensure that our finances don’t go sideways. Our giving has increased again. Our schedules are still a nightmare in a lot of areas, but we’re starting to cancel things when we need to, just to have time together.

Were we not certain that God was at work behind all of these things, I don’t know where we’d be. Most likely being tossed to and fro by doubt and deceitful doctrine, I would surmise.

But this all leads me to want to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness in my life.

By the time this post is published, by God’s grace, I’ll be flying 30,000 feet above the earth on my way home to see my wife and daughter. Should we not stand in awe that God, through His common grace, has given us the ability to fly across the world?

Should we not be incredibly thankful for technology that allows us to communicate with friends and family across the planet for free (Gmail chat is wonderful!)

And should we not be thankful that for the provision of food (even though airline food is less than spectacular at times)?

What would our lives look like if we stopped looking our problems for a moment and looked at what God is doing?

I suspect we would all be amazed.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thes. 5:16-18

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.