From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 3 – Cultivate the attitude of thankfulness until it is a habit
Make a decision that no matter what your circumstances may be, you will give thanks to the LORD anyway. Do it every day, indeed several times every day. Train yourself to give thanks. Set out to make it your habit. The more often you do it, the more habitual it will become. Then you will find it easier to continue to thank God by force of habit, even in hard times:
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
16Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)
Note that Paul says we are to give thanks “in” everything. He does not say we are to give thanks “for” everything. He means that however bad our current circumstances may be, we are still to give thanks in them. We are not necessarily giving thanks for the ordeal, or for our suffering. The point is that even in those adverse circumstances we should still look for things to be thankful for, such as our children, health, family, job, home etc.
Doing that puts the current difficulty into its proper context. We then realise that it is vastly outnumbered by the many blessings we also have. We still have much to be thankful for, however bad things may get. It is giving thanks in those painful situations that touches God’s heart the most. That fact alone makes it worthwhile. However, it will also alter the way we see our situation and especially the way we react to it.
Sometimes giving thanks requires an effort of the will and can be a sacrifice
God is very realistic. He is well aware that at certain times, when we face tests and ordeals, it is difficult to give thanks. At such times to go ahead and give thanks anyway, despite not feeling like doing so, is a kind of sacrifice. It is something that you do as a decision of your will, from obedience rather than spontaneously. God values it very highly when we offer thanksgiving in that manner. As we saw above, the Psalmist refers to it as the sacrifice of thanksgiving:
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LordPsalm 116:17 (RSV)
Therefore, try to develop the habit of giving thanks daily, every time you pray. Let it become a natural and permanent fixture in your prayer life, regardless of how you feel. Indeed, if anything, it is particularly at difficult times that you most need to give thanks. Firstly it pleases God, but secondly it also helps you to refocus your thinking onto God, and on to all that He does for you, rather than dwelling on whatever your current problem is. That’s a good habit to have and will help you, in more challenging times, not to neglect to give thanks.