“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This verse kept coming up in my studying on thankfulness. I must admit the first time I read it, I thought nope, I don’t want to write on this verse. The second time I told the Lord, “Lord that one is just too hard to write on.” And I kept searching and it popped up again, and I said “Ok Lord, but you have to give me the words.” Which is kind of funny because He is the one who gives me the words every day.
But this one is hard isn’t it? Because sometimes you just don’t feel much like rejoicing and giving thanks in ALL circumstances do you? But there are reasons we can give thanks even when there is not enough money to make it to the end of the month, or there are empty spaces at the table whether it be from sickness or loss or people who can’t see eye to eye. Or maybe you or someone you love just got that diagnosis, or maybe the diagnosis is completing it’s work and you are having to watch your loved one or you, yourself are having to endure the pain of a sickness that is hard to watch and hard to endure.
The church in Thessalonica was no stranger to hardship. Paul founded this church and was essentially run out of town in a matter of weeks. Yet, the church continued even in the midst of people who weren’t believers. The church in Thessalonica was alive and active even though it’s founder Paul wasn’t welcome in the city. Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonian Christians to encourage them. And nearing the end of the letter is where we find the exhortation to them we are studying today.
To “rejoice always” means yes, we are to look for something to rejoice about even when there doesn’t seem to be anything to rejoice about. As christians we can’t live as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We have to know that even though our circumstances at the moment may not look good, that things can and will change. Mainly because our God doesn’t change. He is the same today that He was yesterday and that He will be tomorrow. But life has a way of changing just as the seasons come and go, the hardships come and go as well. Our joy has to be found in Him and not in our circumstances. We may be grieving for a moment but we cling to the hope that we will have new mercies every morning.
I have learned over the course of my days what it means to “pray without ceasing”. I do get up every day and have a quiet time that sets the tone for my day, but I also know what it’s like to have life circumstances that won’t leave my mind. I know what it’s like to have that worry over a thing that seems to consume me. That’s where the praying without ceasing comes in I think. When you have that thing, that is breaking your heart, you just have to keep laying it at his feet maybe a dozen times a day. I think sometimes we make prayer too complicated. Prayer is nothing more than communication with God. I do like intentional times of sitting with Him, quieting my soul and spirit to listen for what He wants to tell me. But I love the fact that I can feel His presence all day every day and I can pray, communicate with Him all day every day too.
And because of these things that we can know His joy even in the tough stuff of life, and we can communicate with Him in the all day, every day and we can give thanks in everything. Maybe not because the thing is happening but because you can see His hand in the thing. Or if you can’t see His hand at the moment, you can have faith that He is working behind the scenes.
I don’t know what your circumstances are. Maybe there is a seat that will be empty around your Thanksgiving table and you are having a hard time giving thanks. Things are very expensive this year, maybe you are not sure how you will make the money and the meal come out. Maybe you are concerned about things that no one knows about. But you can know that God knows. And sometimes you just have to start small. If you can’t give thanks yet for your circumstances, tell Him. Let Him know you want to and then look around and find something to give thanks for, a sunrise, a baby’s laugh, a pretty flower. Ask Him to show you today.
This morning the weather is a little milder so I got to sit on my porch again this morning, with a heater and and a blanket but it is my favorite place to have my quiet time. So I am thanking Him for milder weather and the sunrise He is about to paint for me. What can you find to be thankful for today?