As Christians we are commanded to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16-18).
This is my life verse, but as with so many things I had misunderstood the verse to mean “for everything give thanks”, which turned out to be impossible. With the meaning “in everything give thanks” that makes it possible to give thanks, no matter the circumstances.
So was the situation with the Prophet Jonah. God had told him to go to Nineveh and prophesy so that they would repent. Now Nineveh was the very enemy of the Jews, so Jonah refused and boarded a ship going the other way. A storm arose, and the crew wanted to know who to blame for the storm. The lot fell on Jonah, he confessed and told them to throw him overboard so the storm would end. They did and God had prepared a big fish that swallowed Jonah whole. Jonah stayed in the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah was in dire straits. What could he do? He did obey God and said:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me.
“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
3 For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord, my God.
7 “When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the Lord;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8 “Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”
10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:1-10)
The story goes on Jonah went to Nineveh (think ISIS), they repented, which displeased Jonah. Pouting Jonah sat outside the town and in one day a gourd grew up, gave him shelter. But in the evening the plant withered, which also displeased Jonah (he was not a good rejoicer)
Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”
10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
This is the true meaning of thanksgiving; In everything give thanks.
1 Thess 5 continues: 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
This too is good advise, more than that, it is a command.