Prepositions are often very small words – like in, of, as, by, for, or to. But a preposition can be the most important word for understanding some sentences. Today I am pondering a bit of scripture that contains such a word. The apostle Paul wrote, “give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. This phrase contains the tiny word “in.”
Paul could have said, “give thanks for all circumstances,” and I have seen this phrase interpreted as if he did use the word “for” instead of “in.” I have heard it said, based on this verse, that we should give thanks for the pain and suffering that we go through. I disagree, because Paul did not use the preposition “for.”
Rather, he said we should give thanks “in” our circumstances. In my suffering, or during my times of pain, I should give thanks for those things I am thankful for. I should give thanks for those who help me through my trials. I should give thanks for God’s provision of grace and mercy. I should give thanks for the things that make my suffering more bearable. But this verse does not suggest to me that I must actually be thankful for the pain and suffering itself.
As an example, the weather right now is very cold and it is causing the arthritis in my neck to flare up and be painful. I am not thankful for the cold or the pain, and I don’t believe God expects me to be. But I am thankful that I have a warm car to travel to and from work in. I am thankful for a warm house to go home to and a relatively warm office building to work in all day. I am thankful for pain medication that helps relieve the pain somewhat. I am thankful for those who care enough to ask how I am doing. And I am especially thankful for the knowledge that spring and summer will come again.
In spite of our circumstances, whatever they may be, we all have something for which we can and should give thanks. Sometimes we can even give thanks FOR our circumstances, but other times all that we can do is be thankful IN them. What are your circumstances today? If they are not such that you feel thankful for them, focus on what you can be thankful for in them. It is that attitude of thankfulness itself that can help you through (another great preposition) difficult circumstances.