Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Many people read verses like the one above that admonish us to give thanks in all circumstances, or to always have praise be on our lips and confuse that with the idea of "always look on the bright side". They end up living this strange fake Christian life where everything is always cheery and no one has any problems ever. When something bad does happen, instead of letting themselves grieve or feel fear or anger, they try to force themselves to be content and at peace. They try to find the good in every situation, sometimes to the point of absurdity, and often times to the point of callousness. They tell themselves to focus on their blessings and not on what they don't have. They end up creating a false facade, trying to look like a content and peaceful Christian on the outside and on the inside, they chide themselves for being so ungrateful to Almighty God because they really aren't happy with their circumstances.
The truth is, admonishments such as the one above to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances is not about looking on the bright side and only focusing on positive things. It is not about always trying to be cheerful and happy. It is not about keeping us from feeling scared or hurt or angry. It is not really even about being grateful for the blessings God has given us, because truth is, it is much easier to give thanks in circumstances where God's blessings are obvious. It is about getting to the point where you can praise God for the bad in your life, praising Him for your pain.
Even Christians who get to the point of praising God for their pain often only praise Him for the good they see that comes of it. They say things like, "I thank God for the hail storm that damaged the roof because it means I get a big insurance check" or "Thank you God for making me lose my job because it made me see other possibilities that were around me". We aren't truly giving thanks in all things until we are giving thanks for situations that we can't see the positive in. "God, I praise you for the death of this child." "God, I praise you for making my struggle with this illness so difficult."
What giving thanks in these situations really becomes is submission, admitting to God that His plan is the best plan whether we agree or not. We don't have to be happy about something in order to praise God for it. In fact, to truly praise God in all circumstances, our praise has to be independent of whatever we may be feeling in the moment, whether it is extreme sadness, anger or frustration. Regardless of what our emotions may be, we always have reason to rejoice since we have a God that knows us and loves us and sent His Son to die on the Cross for us. We need to remember that our God is bigger than whatever present circumstance we are going through may be and Romans 8:28 tells us that all things are used for the good of those who love Him and for that, we must always rejoice. We may not always understand why God gives us pain and painful situations, but we must become submissive and remember that God deserves our praise and thanks at all times, joyful or otherwise.
As in all things, focusing our eyes on the Eternal takes the pressure and stress off the temporary. And when one focuses on the Eternal, they can't do anything but rejoice.