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)
No, I do not rejoice always
I did not rejoice when my daughter went to the emergency room. Five months later, there was no rejoicing when my husband took a trip there. The following year, when I took my own trip to the ER, there was no rejoicing. No, I did not rejoice when a friend’s husband walked out on her and their children. Rejoicing was nowhere to be found when I found out a dear friend was given a diagnosis of an invasive, aggressive cancer. In these moments, there was heartache. My head spun, and my emotions were a train wreck. But rejoicing? None was found in the middle of those moments. During the disagreements and disappointments in life? No, I do not rejoice.
Did Paul honestly mean to say we are to rejoice always, and to give thanks in all circumstances? Surely, he wrote that on a good day: a really good day. But alas, I have looked and I have studied, and I cannot find a loophole in Paul’s words. Trust me, I have tried. Paul, who was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and imprisoned again, tells us to rejoice always, pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances. Do you know what this means? We are to rejoice, even on those hard, horrible days. And, we are to pray, not just during our morning quiet times. We are to give thanks in all circumstances. What? All circumstances? Yes, all means all. When my doctors cannot figure out my health, and when I fight with my husband, I am to give thanks. In those hard, knock the breath right out of you moments, we are to give thanks.
All means all.
Life sucker punched me; how do I give thanks?
How do we do this? How do we practice what Paul has instructed us to do? Friend, I do not have this nailed down. My first reaction is not rejoicing and thanksgiving. Let me just confess that to you. However, God has been showing me why I react in that manner. When I am focused more on the problem than on God, I will not respond with thanksgiving. If I make my circumstances bigger than God, there will be no rejoicing. How do we rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances? We stare at God, and gaze at our own lives. We stare at God. With our eyes focused, and our attention unwavering on God, we will be able to respond as Paul instructs. When we stare at Him and glance at our problems, we see correctly.
Yes, we will face moments that we feel will destroy us. You and I will endure grief and heartache. We will encounter circumstances that shake us to the core. Some situations will feel impossible and will forever change us. But God. God is bigger than all of it. He alone offers peace that surpasses understanding. Only God, the one who welcomes us to the table where He has prepared a place for us, can cause our fearful hearts to rejoice.
We rejoice, not in the circumstance, but in who God is.
Learning to give thanks in all things
I am learning to give thanks in all things. Honestly, I do not do this well a majority of the time. But, I’m learning. I want to invite you to begin staring at God. Join me in staring at God, and glancing at problems. Let’s join together and stare at our Father, and make more of Him, and less of our circumstances.
Father, forgive us for making much of ourselves and our circumstances. Forgive us for glancing at you while we stare at situations. Help us to change our perspective: to stare at you, and glance at our lives. Help us to rejoice always, pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances. You are in every moment, and you have promised to never leave us. Give us eyes to see You more clearly, and more often. Amen.