Giving Thanks when Life Sucks

Craig Kraft /Thursday, December 5, 2019


One of the verses I remember memorizing as a little kid was 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I always struggled to remember Bible verses and my mom spent many hours helping me by putting verses to music to help me remember them. 

This particular verse has been troubling to me.  “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

I think this is one of those cases where we can so easily take a verse out of context.  Taken literally, it could be understood to say that even when you stub your toe or run out of gas, you should be thankful because it was God’s will for that to happen.

When Life is Rough

If you are like me, you have had times in your life, perhaps many times in your life, that things just seem to be going the wrong way.  Nothing seems to be going right. 

  • Maybe you or someone you love has received bad news from a doctor. 
  • You may have lost a loved one. 
  • You may have experienced a business failure. 
  • Your kids may be causing you great stress. 

There are so many things that happen in our lives that just suck.  How can we give thanks and is it really God’s will that all these bad things happen in our lives?

Great books and articles have been written about why bad things happen to good people. 

A simple understanding of how we can give thanks when bad things are happening is to look at things from a broader context.  If all we are considering is our present and immediate circumstances, it can be easy to become bitter or resentful.  However, if we look at things from God’s perspective and his timeline, our trials start to become pretty small.

An Old Letter

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Paul wrote this verse to the church in Thessalonica around the middle of the first century.  It is thought that this was the earliest of Paul’s first letters.  It is a very personal letter that emphasizes the hope of Christ’s return. 

Paul is writing to a group of people who were countercultural.  They chose to follow Jesus at a time when Christians were being persecuted for their faith. 

Paul is encouraging them for their faithfulness and encouraging them to think about the future.  He knows that they will face trials and struggles and perhaps some may face death for following Jesus.  Paul, himself, had been part of an execution squad before he came to faith in Jesus (Acts 8-9). 

Paul provides the Thessalonians with a formula for facing their trials successfully with an attitude of holiness.   

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

1. Rejoice Always 

Paul had a hard life, but he found true joy in following Jesus.  Reflecting on the amazing love and grace of God should bring a note of joy to even the darkest of days.

2. Pray without Ceasing 

Prayer can consist of words or it can be an attitude of our heart.  Paul instructs us to lift our hearts to God.  This is an act of submission and humility as we reflect on his presence and greatness and allow His Spirit to infuse our hearts and minds. 

3. In Everything Give Thanks

Allowing gratitude to shape our attitude is all about trying to understand our circumstances from God’s perspective.  Our trials and pains are big. I don’t intend to minimize that in any way.  Paul wants us to look past the present trials to the future hope that is ours in Christ.  Things will get better.  We are not facing these trials alone (Psalm 23). 

Three Part Attitude

Paul concludes this little triad with the affirmation that “this” (the three part attitude of holiness) is God's will for us. 

God’s will is that we will develop and reflect his holiness in this world. 

We accomplish His will when we face tough times with rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving. 

It may sound a little bit simple or cliché, but it has carried my family and me through some pretty rough patches in our lives.  I would encourage you to give it a try. 

When life really sucks, align your heart with God and nurture an attitude of holiness.  It won’t change your situation, but it will change the way you face it.


When Craig Kraft was very young, he wanted to be a policeman or a cowboy. Later in life, he dreamed of being a professional fisherman or the manager of a remote wilderness lodge. Now, Craig is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada! Craig loves to watch sports, work in the yard & spend time in the woods. Craig loves that OC is a team of passionate people who work together toward the goal of discipling people into the kingdom of God and he loves the opportunities he has to work with so many different people across Canada & the world. 




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