“How we can stay up in a down world?” Good question. God tells us to “rejoice always;” to “pray continually” (or incessantly), and to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18.
I sure don’t always feel thankful; nor do I give thanks in every circumstance.
How can we be obedient to God’s command to be thankful in every circumstance when:
- We lose a loved one to death
- Divorce enters our lives or families
- Children rebel
- Pain wracks our bodies or minds
- Finances are a challenge, or
- A spouse or child rejects Christ?
Not long ago, my two-year old grandniece fell through a screen, from a second story bedroom window to the cement below. Seeing this little sweetheart very vulnerable in her hospital bed, a soft brace on her neck, and a purple, very swollen eye, hurt me. Thankful that she fell? Of course not. Thankful as we saw God’s protective hand over her, with no neurological damage? Yes. And if she had suffered greater damage? It’s not always easy to give thanks and I don’t think scripture gives us easy answers; but it does challenge us to trust in the ‘God Who is There’.
Years ago, I was targeted by an employee. I did not appreciate her hostility or efforts to sabotage me. However, as I ate my lunch each day, reading the Psalms and looking at a beautiful oak tree across the road, God spoke peace to my heart. He assured me that He would care for and justify me. And He did, when she was later caught stealing from the company. And as I waited for an outcome that I couldn’t anticipate, I chose to trust that God would rectify a situation I could not correct.
In her recent sermon, Pastor Valerie Webb reminded us that we’re not told to give thanks FOR everything. But IN every circumstance we can give thanks. Why?
- Because we have a God who cares (“Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” I Peter 5:7, TLB).
- Because our God feels with us in our suffering; He wants to carry our burdens (“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens”–Psalm 68:19); and
- Because He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”–Hebrews 13:5).
And because He is ultimately in charge, we can thank Him–for His presence, His awareness of our need, His promise of faithfulness. God has a way for us, even in our pain, and despite the time and healing we may require to see His outworking.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses the prophet’s commitment to praise.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
When I focus on my circumstances I can get very down, discouraged, despairing. But when I focus on God, I choose to thank Him because He is holy, loving, forgiving, and is WITH ME – Immanuel!
Where do you need Jesus to be your burden-bearer right now?