Today is Thanksgiving, so of course it’s the day to give thanks. A day to stop a moment and think of the many blessings in my life, to even stop wanting “more” and truly focus in on what I have, not what I don’t have and be genuinely grateful for it. That’s what today is all about. But I have recently come to have a whole new perspective of giving thanks.
One of the things I love about Scripture, is that no matter how many times you read a verse, or a passage, it can always still speak to you in a fresh new way. No matter where you are in your understanding of it, there are always new levels, new depths.
There are times in reading Scripture that I just don’t get it (honestly)! There are times I do get it and like, love or even dislike what I’m reading. There are times when I’m reading it, that I’ll think, “great story,” or “that’s such a good lesson.” And then there are times that while reading, studying or learning about a particular part of Scripture, when I am blown away (startled, stunned, in awe) by the revelation I get from it!
So it is with this passage: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:16-18, NKJV) Honestly, for a long time I thought it was a nice Scripture passage, a good thought, something to work toward. Then came adversity, pain, sorrow and loss. Not just a little either, but wave, after wave, after wave of it.
Then this particular passage seemed to have a different message altogether. It became more of a “suck it up, deal with it and be thankful for it because this is what God has for you.” And I didn’t handle that message well. Why should I rejoice about this pain and loss I’m dealing with? Why pray, it doesn’t seem to help? Why the hell (sorry if I offend some with this, just keeping it real) should I be thankful about losing my precious babies to miscarriage, 4 times? This may be God’s will for me, but He can’t make me like it!
Pretty harsh, huh? I guess you could say I was a bit angry… The anger eventually faded and I wasn’t nearly as bitter, but I still didn’t get it. How could I be thankful about all these things (the miscarriages, husband losing job, financial devastation, loss of relationships, etc) and how could they be God’s will for me?
Then came the revelation. And oh, how freeing it was!
“Rejoice always” doesn’t mean to be happy about the bad things that happen in life, but rather to allow the joy of the Lord to rise up from within you, no matter what the situation or circumstance is. The joy isn’t from the experience, it’s from the Lord! It’s from knowing that no matter what, He loves you, He cares about what you’re going through and He will always be there for you, even in your pain . . . especially in your pain!
“Pray without ceasing” doesn’t mean to devote hour after hour, sitting all alone, asking the Lord, over, and over, and over again, to change your situation, focusing on your problem, but not on your God. Instead, it means to take a moment, here and there, randomly, throughout the day to talk to Him. As your God, as a Father, as a Friend. It means to talk to him about the needs you have, but also the needs that others have. It means to acknowledge His presence in your life. It means to be real with him and to allow Him to be real to you. To pray without ceasing is to have a conversation ~ not a monologue. Speaking with Him (not to Him) helps you to see more than just your problems, it allows you see your blessings too!
“In everything give thanks” doesn’t mean you have to thank Him for the storm, pain, loss, or problems in your life. It means that in both good times and bad, there are things to be thankful for. Things that may have nothing to do with your situation! It is possible to be thankful for friends, your health, your home, even clear skies or cool temperatures, and so much more, in the midst of a personal storm. There is always something to be thankful for. Being thankful for these things may not change your situation, but they’ll change you! When you have an attitude of thankfulness, you take our eyes off the misery or enormity of your situation. You then get the gift of sight ~ seeing that this life is not all about you, that this life is not all about this life. Thankfulness strengthens you and enables you keep going, to make it through to the other side.
“For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” doesn’t mean that it is God’s will for you suffer or go through the tragedies of life. It doesn’t mean that He is looking around for someone to torture with a terrible life situation and finds you, so there you have it. No! It means it is the will of God to have a thankful spirit, so you are open to Him, and He can work in you, even in the hardest of times. It is His will that you are able to take your eyes off yourself and see Him. It is His will that you are able to trust Him and see all He has done for you, your loved ones, and the whole world, even in the midst of your trials.
The pain and the suffering are real. The storms, tragedies and trials of this life, they are real. But so is my God. He is real. And if I remember who He is and if I am thankful for whom he is and for what he has done for me, He will hold me up, He will get me through, and He will teach me something in the process. If I don’t hinder his work in my life, by the hardness of my heart, which is accomplished through being ungrateful, then He will help me overcome. Then, through His grace and mercy, He will see to it, that the pain, the tears and the experience wasn’t wasted. But instead He will use it, not only for my gain, but also to help others to get through their pain, tears and experience as well. And for that, I am giving thanks!