Thankful in Every Circumstance

Bert and John Jacobs are brothers who cofounded the $100 million “Life Is Good” T-shirt company.  They grew up the youngest of six children in a lower middle-class family in Boston. When the brothers were in elementary school, their parents were in a near-death car accident from which their mother managed to escape with just a few broken bones, but their father lost the use of his right hand.

The stress and frustration from his physical therapy caused him to develop a harsh temper, they explain in their new book Life Is Good. "He did a lot of yelling when we were in grade school," John told Business Insider. "And life certainly wasn't perfect."

But their mom, Joan, still believed life was good. So, every night as the family sat around the dinner table, she would ask her six kids to tell her something good that happened that day. "As simple as mom's words were, they changed the energy in the room," the brothers write. "Before we knew it, we were all riffing on the best, funniest, or most bizarre part of our day."

Growing up with a mother like theirs—one who sang in the kitchen, told animated stories, and acted out children's books for them, no matter what bad situation they were going through—taught them an important lesson: being happy isn't dependent on your circumstances. "She showed us that optimism is a courageous choice you can make every day, especially in the face of adversity."

Some of you have had a tough year.  You’ve lost your job. Maybe you have gone through a difficult time in your marriage.  Now we come to Thanksgiving and you wonder, “How can I give thanks to God when times are tough?"

I Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV). 

Paul is not saying in this verse to give thanks for everything.  For example, you don’t have to give thanks for evil in the world.  If my wife was sick, I would not be thankful for her sickness.  But what he is saying is that in every circumstance, no matter how bad it is, we can give thanks to God because . . .

. . . His purpose is bigger than my problem.

. . .  He will give me the power to overcome.

. . . I know that I will grow through the experience if I allow God to use it in my life.

I don’t have to be thankful for evil, but I can be thankful despite evil. I don’t have to be thankful for a bad situation, but I can be thankful in the midst of a bad situation. 

How can you be grateful when you have lost your job or your health or your spouse?  By looking not at what you’ve lost – but what you have.  That was what caught my eye about the Jacobs brothers' story.  Their mother taught them to find the best in each day. 

So here is the question for this Thanksgiving:  What are you taking for granted?  Your health?  Your freedom?  Your relationships?  This Thanksgiving sing that old, familiar hymn, “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done.”