Thankful In Everything

Thankful in Everything


Virginia Basketball coach Tony Bennett has built his national championship program on five pillars. Passion, humility, unity, & servanthood are all concepts that fit with sports. If a player doesn’t have passion for what he’s doing, he won’t put in the grunt work such as weightlifting and running that help him become better on the court. Humility is crucial, especially in a team sport, where a player focused on his own statistics and playing time will hurt the squad. Likewise, unity is critical to keeping the team focused on the same goal. And if players don’t have a servant’s mindset, everyone will try to be the one to score, and nobody will be doing the necessary jobs such as blocking, screening and passing that make scoring possible. Michael Jordan never would have won six championships without Scottie Pippen. 

The one pillar that may seem out of place is thankfulness. It’s easy to agree that it’s a positive trait to develop in life, but how is it important to a basketball team? Well, its significance was demonstrated in 2018 after Bennett’s team lost to UMBC, becoming the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed. After beginning to get over the pain and embarrassment of such a historic loss, he and his players approached their next season with a determination they hadn’t felt before. They worked harder in the weight room, in film study, and in practice. They kept reminders of that loss close at hand. Kyle Guy kept the picture of him walking off the court after the game as the wallpaper on his phone so he wouldn’t forget. 

After winning the National Championship in April, Bennett referred to that loss as a “painful gift.” He gained the perspective to understand that pain and difficulty can be the very things that open the door to much better things in life. The key is to be thankful. Bennett’s philosophy is grounded in his faith, and he’s learned that a grateful attitude keeps us from developing a “woe is me” mindset, and helps us focus on what we can learn and how we can grow from mistakes and difficult circumstances. For the Christian, it helps us look to God and say, “I don’t know what you’re going to do with this, but I trust that you’ll use it to do something amazing.” In Celebrate Recovery we say, “God never wastes a hurt.” The problem is that we often do waste them, because we haven’t incorporated Paul’s directive to the church at Thessalonica. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). It’s that one little three-letter word that causes me so much trouble: all. Is he kidding? He means that figuratively, not literally, right? Well, no. Because he knows that a mindset like this is a key to opening the vault of God’s blessings. 

It’s the attitude of being thankful in all circumstances that helps us see Romans 8:28 come to fruition: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, and are called according to his purpose.” There’s that little word again: all. God tells us to be thankful in all circumstances, but He promises that He will be faithful in all circumstances. And His faithfulness goes far beyond our gratitude. It may not bring a National Championship, but He will work and do amazing things—if we let Him. The key is thankfulness, because thankfulness requires faith; it requires trust. And that’s part of why we struggle with it. Because in the midst of the pain we can’t see what God has working. But we will—if we trust Him. 



I haven’t had a personalized license plate since college, but I couldn’t resist this one. If you’re not up on social media shorthand, “TY” means “thank you.” It’s a constant reminder to me that it’s important to be grateful, even for the painful things in life, because God is always working.