The Importance of Thankfulness in Marriage:
 A Couple’s Bible Study

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

My daughter said to me this past weekend, “Now Halloween is over, we are in the holiday season.” I thought she meant we are now in November, so Thanksgiving is just around the corner. But she continued by saying Christmas is not far away, and then it’s the New Year. I saw a commercial later that day. It had Santa Claus stating it is now time to start Christmas shopping.

The next morning on the local news show, between the weather and traffic reports, the consumer reporter informed us that if we wait until “Black Friday”–the day after Thanksgiving, when the really good Christmas sales used to begin in the stores–we will wait too long. The really big deals can be found now that Halloween is over. Wait a minute! What happened to Thanksgiving? Somehow it seems Halloween has become the big Fall holiday, and then it’s on to Christmas.

Where’s Thanksgiving?

So what did happen to Thanksgiving? I suppose we gave it up a long time ago, with parades and football and, yes, even stores opening Thanksgiving night. (And I even heard there will be many stores open all day on Thanksgiving this year.) But I think we gave it up even before all this–when we stopped being thankful.

We gave up thankfulness when we started believing the lie that our culture, psychology, tv shows (especially the talk shows), magazines, and you name it, started convincing us that we deserve things. The result? We are thankful for little, if anything. After all, we deserve all the good we get. Why be thankful for what we deserve?

Now we don’t talk about what we’re thankful for but about how unfair life is when something bad happens. Even what is bad has become relative–it’s what we define as “bad,” which often means simply not getting everything we want. I watched some of those house buying shows on HGTV the other night. Every couple was the same. Not a single house met up to their ideal. A perfectly good kitchen HAD to be completely remodeled. A completely functional, attractive bathroom HAD to be totally redone. Not to mention there was not a “man cave” for him or a big enough closet in the bedroom for all her clothes. I know some of this comes from the producers of the show telling the couple to find these “problems” to make the episode more entertaining. But is it more real than we want to believe?

We have forgotten how to be truly thankful–and that leads to ingratitude. Ingratitude will destroy us. It will destroy a marriage. Ingratitude is a sin that will separate us from God. And separation from God is a certain way to kill a marriage.

1 Thess. 5182
Thankful in All Circumstances

Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19 to “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire…” It is God’s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances. He doesn’t say in MOST circumstances. He doesn’t say when the closet in our home is big enough, or our spouse has treated us the way we think we deserve to be treated. He says in ALL circumstances. And he says this is God’s will–which means not to do so is to go against God’s will. That is the very definition of sin. After all, James 4:17 makes it clear: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” And that sin will “put out the Spirit’s fire”–quite a serious consequence.

But are we really to be thankful in ALL circumstances? Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So if God is working for our good in ALL THINGS, should we not be thankful in ALL THINGS? I would give a resounding “YES!” It doesn’t say we have to give thanks for all things, but in all things.

Until we can trust God enough to truly come to that place in our hearts, our marriage–in fact, our entire lives–will fall short of the good God has for us, our spouses, and our marriages.

If God is working

A New Perspective of Thanksgiving

I have written previously about my recent medical problems that have led to major changes in Sabra’s and my life–loss of job, lowering of income, having to change our living situation, and I could go on. Am I thankful that all these things have happened? I would have said at first, “No, I wish they hadn’t happened, but I am still thankful to God in the midst of them, for He has been with us at every step, and blessed us so much.”

But now, further down the road, I honestly can say I am also thankful for these things. I never would have learned what God has taught me about Himself, about myself, and about my need to change to be more like Him–to be a better Christ-follower, a better husband, a better father, a better friend…. I would have gone on in my arrogance thinking what a wonderful, godly man and husband I was.

God helped me through all of this to see how selfish, self-centered, self-focused, self-confident, self-assured, and self-dependant I was (so much SELF), and I still have a lot to overcome. But I know He will continue to help me, and as He does, I’ll be a better husband. How can I love Sabra “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” when I am self-centered and self-focused? I CANNOT.

So I am not just thankful in the midst of the trial any more. God has made me thankful FOR it. And He blesses me in that, too, because it has changed my whole perspective. And that brings a joy indescribable. As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 94:19: “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

When my mother was dying of cancer, I remember her saying if she had a choice of having the cancer taken away, but not remembering the things God taught her while going through it, or keeping the cancer and the things she had learned about God while going through it, she would choose the cancer. You see, perspective means everything.

I pray I can keep a perspective of being thankful in all situations. And I pray my perspective never depends again on things, circumstances, or people–including my wife and what she does or doesn’t do. I pray it will be based on being thankful to God for all He has done in my life–beginning with my salvation through his Son, Jesus and also for bringing my wonderful wife into my life. I pray that this perspective of thanksgiving in and for all things makes me a better husband who God will use to bring His joy to Sabra also. Will you join me in striving to be thankful in all things and, therefore, become a better Christ-follower? As a result, we will become better spouses, our marriages will be strengthened, and we will bring glory to God.

Questions to Ask Yourself

    1. Do I skip over Thanksgiving? Am I forgetting to celebrate this holiday of thankfulness to the Lord?
    2. Do I often live my life like I deserve the things I have or deserve even more than I have?
    3. Do I focus on the things I perceive as negative in my life?
    4. Am I missing some of the blessings God has already given me because I don’t recognize them as blessings?
    5. When “bad” things happen, can I see how God may be using this experience to bring good? Do I trust Him to do so?

Applying This To Your Life

    1. Examine your heart to see if you have an attitude of entitlement or an attitude of thankfulness.
    2. Ask God to help you develop a heart of gratitude and be thankful in all things.
    3. As you face “bad” things in each day, look for the blessings. They may not be as hidden as you think.
    4. Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Romans 8:28 to remind you of God’s will and the good He will bring in all things.

Next week we will look at some more things God has to teach us in His Word about thankfulness and how it can make us even better husbands and wives. Our last post, “Give Thanks with the Psalms,” has two free printables full of Scripture for giving thanks. These are good resources to use to fill your home and hearts with thanksgiving. As we continue in this month of thanksgiving, we pray you will be blessed with the goodness of the Lord in all things. We thank you for joining us on Simply One. and pray you will be blessed by what you find here. Until next time…

May God bless you in all His wonderful ways,

Part 2–The Right Focus
Part 3–Thanks, Love, and Joy

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo by Sabra Penley.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.