1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (The Living Bible)
Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
When life hits us hard, it’s difficult to be thankful. How much easier it is to throw up our hands and cry out to God, “Why me? Why this?”
In the short passage above, notice that the apostle Paul does not counsel us to begin with thanksgiving. Rather, he encourages us to be joyful, then prayerful, and in the end, thankful.
It makes sense to begin with joy. No circumstance is so bleak that we cannot remember God’s faithfulness to us, how he has never left us or betrayed his promises. Joy is a gift of the Spirit, a supernatural lifting that God our Father bestows when we turn our hurting hearts toward him for comfort and healing.
Finding our joy can then shift our prayer focus. In the strength of our joy in knowing how God paid the highest price to bring us into relationship with him, we are more apt to listen for his voice instead of merely protesting our circumstances. Opening our hearts to God positions us to receive his wisdom and hope and peace, gifts he is eager to give to those he loves.
Such intimacy with God always leads to deeper faith and trust so that, finally, we really can give thanks in a difficult circumstance. Eventually, if we continue to rejoice and pray, we can learn to give thanks not only in all circumstances but for them as well. Trusting a loving Father who is also sovereign gives us confidence that he works through even the worst circumstance for our good and can use something ugly and painful to draw us closer to him.
FATHER, life isn’t always fair, and sometimes I feel downright picked on! In such moments help me to remember your extravagant love for me and the joy of knowing that you called me to be your very own. Thank you for the privilege of your friendship. Give me grace to cling to you through the worst circumstances and to set my thoughts on all the reasons I have to praise your name.
Psalm 100; Romans 8:28
Why is thankfulness part of God’s will for you?