HH Pope Shenouda III
Levels Of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving in the life of the children of God is in levels:
The least is giving thanks for the miracles, gifts, great pleasures and the plentiful good things, which no one doubts its goodness and benefit. Perhaps, other than this, some do not give thanks! (Simple). Pleasures might pass over them, and other good things they might see as natural and normal and needs no thanks!
There is a higher level of thanksgiving; to give thanks over little:
It might be a normal level in the life of thanksgiving to give thanks over the recover from a serious illness like cancer. But, if a person gave thanks for the recovery from a flu or cold, it indicates that in his life he is used to give thanks over many or little things. If we gave thanks over a few things, God will make us rulers over many things. Perhaps, among the advantages of thanksgiving are the continuity of the blessings and its increase, as one of the Fathers said, “Not a gift without increase, except that without thanksgiving”.
There is also thanksgiving over what is hidden, over what is unseen. Thanksgiving for the wars and troubles which were possible to come to us but did not because of God’s keeping and care. Thanksgiving for the work of God in looking after us, although we cannot see that, but we completely believe in it. Undoubtedly, Satan is doing his utmost to harm us and to make us fall . If we are now well, it is because God has stopped the harm which we do not know and we thank God over the tribulations from which He saved us, but there are difficulties that He stopped on the way before it come to us. We do not know it, but we thank Him for protecting us. Our thanksgiving for saving us, this is something we can see. But, thanksgiving for protecting us is for something which we cannot see. Believe me, if God disclose the calamities we were exposed to and He cast away from us if He uncover this, our whole life will not be enough to thank Him. We give thanks on the hidden matters - which are in God’s knowledge, and which we might know later, in time, or might never know.
In all this, thanksgiving is mixed with love.
Another level is giving thanks always for all things, in which the whole life of man is to give thanks for whatever condition he lives in, and we have explained this matter. Constant thanksgiving does not need a specific reason but it is enough that we are in God’s care, and we are His children, and such feeling is connected with the life of submission. Our thanks do not absolutely depend on the specific condition in which we are.
Thanksgiving Over Tribulation
The highest level of thanksgiving is to give thanks over tribulations. We thank God over the tribulations from which He saved us, and this is the least. But, what is greater than this is also thank Him over the prevailing tribulations which we bear and live in. And with faith we believe it is for our good. To endure and bear the tribulations is a virtue. To be content with the tribulation and accept it is a greater virtue. And more important is to give thanks over the tribulation, to thank with joy and not as mere duty.
Believe me, if we thank over the gifts only, then our love is for the gifts not for God its Giver!
But, if we give thanks to God over the tribulation we prove that we love God Himself and not His gift ie. we do not only love Him for what He gives us wealth, generosity, comforts of life, or what He grants us, calmness and peace God only is our goal, either He gave us tribulations or good things we thank Him on every occasion and in every condition we thank Him whatever happens, and do not allow mishaps to lessen our faith in God's protection or lessen our thanks to Him. We do not allow such events to take away our peace from us, or our rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice in the Lord always - whatever the outer circumstances may be - and live in peace with God and man.
This thanksgiving and rejoice has its effects on others. And therefore, when they see our thanks over the tribulation, our calmness and rejoice, they are comforted. Assuredly, when they see our peace of heart, they will be consoled by the spiritual principles presented by the Bible yet to be an example to them with our life and behaviour. It is said that the fruits of the Spirit are “Love, Joy, Peace...”. He who posses such fruits, he gives thanks to God.
Also, tribulations need thanksgiving because it strengthen the spiritualities. It gives man depth in prayer and depth in the relation with God, depth in fasting and faith. It reunites and lifts the hearts of its children to God . Perhaps a severe tribulation leads man to the life of repentance, better than a hundred sermons and reading many spiritual books.
In tribulations, we see the hand of the Lord works. It shows us the Lord and His work, His coming into our lives and His protection. It show us the power of God and His
wonders. It gives us spiritual experiences which we could not attain without the tribulation. Also, it sifts the church and separates the tares from the wheat. For all these reasons and others, we give thanks to God over tribulation and considers it a blessing. Of course, he who thanks over tribulation shall give thanks for all other things.
So, he lives the constant life of thanksgiving and never murmurs.