Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
If you were to make up a god (please don't!), prop him up on a little altar and light a candle for him, you’d have him say things like, “Be a good person and things will go swimmingly. If you mess up, things will be bad, but then just do some good stuff and everything will be a-okay. Gotta keep things in balance.”
But the real God says something far more profound. First, He says, stop worrying. Then pray. Give thanks. Oh, and pray some more. Then I’ll give you peace beyond understanding.
Now I’ve heard people, upon crunching their toe or their favorite coffee mug or their car, rant and rave and foul the air with their temper. I’ve fouled the air myself a time or um, several. Other people in similar situations might use vastly different words, such as “praise the Lord”, but with the same temper as the air-foulers. I think they’re trying to give thanks in everything, but their praise sounds suspiciously like they’re cussing on the inside.
In most any crunching type situation, there is an opportunity for true gratitude if you take time to consider it. Thank You, Lord, that I crunched my toe on that out-of-place obstacle, and can put it away now before my little ones get hurt. Thank You for the luxury of owning several coffee mugs, and enough money to go buy a new favorite if I want to. Thank You for crunched car without crunched people.
Obviously people experience much harder trials than those I’ve mentioned. It’s hard to find a reason for thanksgiving in the face of cancer, a premature death, a horrid crime or a natural disaster. Chronic difficulties in health or relationships are tough, too. But look at the order of commands in the Philippians passage. First, do not be anxious about anything. Put your cares in God’s hands. Your terror, grief, shame, irritation, doubt, outrage…give it to Him to carry. Then tell Him all about it (prayer) and ask for help (petition). You’re to do this with thanksgiving, which means you have to analyze the situation and think about all the angles and possible consequences until you come up with something you can genuinely be thankful about. If nothing else, you can thank Jesus that in just a few more decades (or years, or days) you won’t have to deal with this kind of thing anymore, because you’ll be safe in His arms where there are no more tears.
After you’ve figured out how you can be thankful, God invites you to tell Him what you’d like Him to do about the situation (present your requests to God). He knows what you want, of course, but do you? Think it out and tell Him. Don’t be surprised, though, if what you ask for upon reflection is a little different than the first thing that leaps to your mind.
Our God knows what will best help transform you and me into the likeness of Christ. We just want Him to take away the bad right now. He wants to prepare us for eternity. When we take time to present our requests with thanksgiving, we expand our ability to see our situations in that light.
I want to have the mind of Christ, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and I can practice that giving my anxieties to God, and praying with thanksgiving about every little and every big thing that comes into my life. That way lies peace transcending understanding, and a heart and mind kept safe in my beloved Jesus.