Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The Apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Church of Thessalonica, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Those are quite powerful words Paul used to encourage a group of people still working to fully understand who Jesus was and what Jesus did for humanity, and they were trying to figure those things our while facing a variety of cultural, social, political, and religious challenges. Times were very difficult for them, and Paul writes to tell them, among other things, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Really Paul?
Have you ever had to deal with really difficult circumstances in your life? I am sure you have. It is part of life. When you’re at your worst, the last thing you want to hear from someone is, “Cheer up! It will get better!” In the moment that seems like the furthest thing from the truth and not particularly helpful. Truthfully it is kind of annoying and can seem very disingenuous especially if those words are coming from a close friend or someone you admire.
I do not believe Paul was being disingenuous or insincere, or oblivious to their circumstances. Part of what Paul was doing was offering some perspective. Yes, life was tough, and was probably going to get worse before getting better, but because of what God had done through His Son, there was forever going to be hope even if it was only the promise of a place with God in heaven when this life came to an end. And that is a profoundly life changing concept, perhaps more so for Paul’s contemporary’s than for us because only a few decades prior, there was no such thing as salvation and everlasting life. And because this promise came from God and was sealed by the blood of Christ, it could never be taken away from us and we would never be separated from the love of God. They were truly blessed in spite of their circumstances. They had grace, and as Paul has also written, God’s grace was sufficient.
As you all know this is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving, and though we’ve been through, and are still dealing with, a pretty difficult period in our history God’s grace has been ever present. Again, nothing that happens to us or here on earth will ever cancel out the gift we have from above. So, we too have much to be thankful for regardless of circumstances. This is why perspective matters. One can still rejoice and give thanks even in the worst of times, but perspective is different. Do you know people that are of a negative sort? You know, the glass is always half empty kind of folk? I do, and they are not really the folks I relish spending a great deal of time with.
I often find that those folks often simply have a negative perspective because there are still thing in their lives that are good, or even very good. They seem to lack the perspective of gratitude for what they do have and choose rather to focus on the negative. And honestly based on our current circumstances and the culture of negativity and divisiveness we currently live in, it is not too hard to share that negative perspective.
I find that on thing that really helps me to avoid being overcome with negativity is the practice of gratitude in my prayer life. I regularly thank God for the abundance of His blessings in my life and that not only honors God, but it forces me to list the blessings in my life and make me more aware of just how generous God is to me. So, in honor of Thanksgiving, and really in honor of God, may I make a suggestion? How about between the time you read this article and Thanksgiving you list 10 things everyday that you are thankful for, either in writing or prayer? I wonder how you would feel by Thanksgiving if you did that for several weeks. Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks always; for this is God’s will for you in Christ.
Yours in Faith,