I don’t believe we should be thankful for everything that happens in our lives. We don’t need to do mental or theological gymnastics to somehow conjure gratitude in the face of tragedy. We can be honest about what’s going on.
In fact, in a Scripture often misconstrued as a kind of blanket “everything that happens is good”, we actually read something very different. In Romans 8:28, we are challenged by these words: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . .” In another letter, Paul writes that we are to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
From one popular angle, we are told that everything going on is “good” and we should be thankful for it. But that’s not what the Scripture says. What we really read is that “in all things” — the good, the ugly, the tragic, the mundane — God is at work on behalf of those he loves. He is not blind to the difficulties, not ignorant of the suffering; rather, the Father is committed to turning evil on its head, destroying the works of the evil one through his resurrection power. And because of that, we can “give thanks in all circumstances” (not for all circumstances), convinced that the Father will work, will redeem, will somehow restore even when the odds seem impossible. And that kind of hope? That is God’s will for us in the mess of difficult circumstances.
And what’s the uptick of this kind of thankfulness? We are able to be truly honest and fully hopeful. We are able to call evil what it is, naming tragedy honestly and without qualification. But we can do that with a kind of unshakable confidence that God is bigger than evil people, horrible events, and tragic circumstances. We are able to name the truth about our current reality, while at the same time proclaiming the truth about our ever-resourceful Father, who will work in all things good for the ones he loves.
I’m not thankful for everything that happens. But because of who my Father is, I can be thankful in everything. God’s got this, and he’s going to work things out, in the end, for our good.