Thankfulness is a prominent Bible theme. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths.
Digging into the Scriptures a little deeper, we understand why we should be thankful and also how to have gratitude in different circumstances.
Psalm 136:3 says: "O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever." Here we are to be thankful for God’s mercy. When we recognize the nature of our depravity and understand that, apart from God, there is only death (John 10:10; Romans 7:5), our natural response is to be grateful for all aspects of the life He gives us.
Psalm 30 gives praise and thanksgiving to God. David writes: "I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever."
Here David gives thanks to God following an obviously difficult circumstance. This psalm of thanksgiving not only praises God in the moment but remembers God’s past faithfulness. It is a statement of God’s character, which is so wonderful that praise is the only appropriate response.
We also have examples of being thankful in the midst of hard circumstances. Psalm 28, for example, depicts David’s distress. It is a cry to God for mercy, protection, and justice. After David cries out to God, he writes, “Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him." (Psalm 28:6-7). In the midst of hardship, David remembers who God is and, as a result of knowing and trusting God, gives thanks. Job had a similar attitude of praise, even in the face of death: “And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).
There are examples of believers’ thankfulness in the New Testament as well. Paul was heavily persecuted, yet he wrote, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
The writer of Hebrews says, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:” (Hebrews 12:28).
Peter gives a reason to be thankful for all kinds of temptations, saying that, through the hardships, our faith may be proved genuine and may result in "praise, honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).
The people of God are thankful people, for they realize how much they have been given. One of the characteristics of the last days is a lack of thanksgiving, according to 2 Timothy 3:2: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,”.
Wicked people are “unthankful” and often get annoyed with people who are polite and thankful in everything. They call "evil good, and good evil":
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
In Revelation 12:10, Satan is referred to as "the accuser of our brethren." The word "accuse" is defined, "(1) to charge with, or declare to have committed a crime, (2) to find at fault; to blame.
Satan is always trying to steal a believer's joy and thanksgiving unto the Lord by accusing them of something or fault finding. Satan speaks oppressive words in to the believer's life. Believer's do not accuse or oppress, they encourage, teach and are lead by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. There is a difference between a critical spirit and a discerning spirit. A critical spirit condemns, a discerning spirit corrects, gently, with kindness while speaking truth (scripture) in love.
When we are thankful, our focus moves off selfish desires and off the pain of current circumstances. Expressing thankfulness helps us remember that regardless of what Satan is hurling at us, God is in control. Thankfulness, in all circumstances of life, is not only appropriate; it is actually healthy and beneficial to us. It reminds us of the bigger picture, that we belong to God, and that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Truly, we have an abundant life (John 10:10), and gratefulness is fitting.
Remember, we are witnesses representing Jesus Christ. All the people God brings in to our lives are observing, listening and watching everything we do and say.
We should be thankful because God is worthy of our thanksgiving. It is only right to credit Him for “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above ” (James 1:17).