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.
It is almost September and we are full swing into a transition period. Kids are going back to school, schedules are being adjusted, and fall is on the way – unless you live in Texas. Transitions, hard or easy, are a part of life. So are hard seasons. Two weeks ago I started a Biblical Counseling class and this verse out of 1 Thessalonians was one of the verses we discussed the first night. Since then it has turned up over and over again, in my quiet time, in devotionals I get in my email, and again last week in choir. Obviously God has been speaking to me and He knows that I am the kind of girl that you have to pound it into my head to get it across to me. These nine words can be hard to follow when your heart is broken, your family has fallen apart, your finances are a wreck, or any of the other things that happen in life, and life is always happening. As Christians, we can become disillusioned, not knowing how to navigate through the difficult seasons of life – and still act like a Christian. As women we are supposed to always have it all together and be strong for everyone else. We are not supposed to worry, be discouraged, and for sure our faith should never waver. But the truth is that most of us struggle in hard times and when we feel discouraged or defeated, it is hard to find our way through.
The nine words in this passage are the best advice for handling whatever is happening in our lives. It seems contrary to our instinct to do something. Rejoice always is the first thing Paul tells us to do. Rejoice? Rejoice about what when we can only see all the wrong things going on and all the obstacles to peace before us? I know what I have to do in the next week, what I have to pay, where I have to be, what commitments I have made, and I can already feel the stress. I see problems that cannot be solved. I see bills that cannot be paid. I see relationships that cannot be mended. My hands are full of shattered pieces of my life that I cannot fix and I am so tired from trying. So, rejoice? Rejoice always – even when I cannot see how it will all work, even when it all seems so overwhelming and impossible. It is His plan. It is His command and it is His will for my life…Rejoice always.
I can rejoice because one thing I know is that I can hand Him the pieces of my broken heart, my broken life, my broken relationships. I can give it all to Him, because He wants to take care of all that for me. He wants to carry my load and He is the only one who can fix what is supposed to be fixed and give me the strength to sit with what stays according to His purpose. He can take my broken and make the best thing with it. It may not be what I thought it should be or what I wanted it to be, but I know that I can trust Him.
He gives comfort, peace, and security, that no person or thing can. It is so easy to reach out to someone or something to put our trust in that is right in front of us and within our grasp. But that is how Satan works – he is always the most convenient and easiest thing to reach, but never the right thing. Praying continuously about whatever is heavy on our heart helps to bring some comfort and peace. If we can take what we are worried about and put it into a prayer to our Heavenly Father, that is His will for us. It is easy to pray continuously when we are in the heat of a bad time, but our Heavenly Father desires for us to pray continuously in any circumstance.
Giving thanks, like rejoicing always is tricky when you are in a hard season. Thankful is often the last thing we feel. Paul says to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. You may not feel thankful for the season or transition you are in. But know that God is there. He is faithful and His promises never fail. We can stand on His promises and be thankful for what He has done, and what is to come. Focusing on what there is to be thankful for takes some of the despair away. It doesn’t change everything, but it does change our perspective. Even in the midst of chaos, God is good. He has been good, He is good, and there is more to come. That is what He wants us to remember. He loves us, and He is not about to leave us high and dry in the worst seasons of our life.
So, I rejoice and give thanks that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and cares about my life, even when I might have made a mess of it myself. I rejoice that when my palms are overflowing with all I am trying to carry and fix that I can hand it right over to Him – pain, sorrow, fear, and more. He wants it all.
When life takes your breath away – and not in a good way – sit with it. There is always value in sitting quietly and thinking about the sufficiency of Christ. Don’t focus on worries or problems, but think about Him. Think about His sovereignty. Sometimes He just wants us to trust Him and quit trying. If we are trying to handle it all in our own power, we are not trusting Him.
It has been a hard season for me personally. I won’t bore you with all the details of all the transitions I have been through in the past eight months, but it has been a LOT. There have been times I have lost my way in the fog but thankfully I have special friends and family that God has blessed me with that have been there for me along the way. Whether or not you have family or friends, and I hope you do, you have a Heavenly Father who is always there for you. Remember the three things in this passage to turn your focus back to Him. These three things settle everything – Rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances. It is His will for us.
By Lara Cook