"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I think one of the ways we honor God the most is to have a grateful heart, to practice thanksgiving every day--practice, I say,--and to say with our heart, "I trust you in this place. I believe you are good. I know you will show your faithfulness in my life."
But often, we live by our feelings instead and sometimes we communicate them too much to others. I think that is what the Israelites did when they were condemned to 40 years in the desert.
Believe me, I know life is sooooo very demanding and challenging in this fallen world. Jesus knew it, too. He said, "In this world you have tribulation (stress, battles, overwhelming difficulties), but TAKE COURAGE! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD."
TAKE COURAGE? WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?
There is no Scripture I know of where God says it is okay to grumble, pout, or complain. I sure would like to find one, but it's not there (I'm still looking!) There are, however, plenty of verses where God says to be thankful.
When I'm facing difficult circumstances, that verse at the top of this page can be a very annoying! If I consider the alternatives to being thankful, though, I can readily see God's point.
When I pout instead of being joyful, grumble instead of praying, and complain instead of giving thanks, I am in effect telling God that He is mishandling my life and I don't like it.
At that point, I have ceased to put my faith in my sovereign Lord, and have chosen to put my faith in my circumstances. In other words, I am telling God and myself, that if my circumstances change, then and only then can I be happy.
Until then, I have nothing to be thankful for. And that, according to Paul, is when I step out of God's will.
Embracing the Lord's will for my life means accepting the exact set of circumstances He has handed me, one day at a time. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to accept them one moment at a time! Today, I have a choice to make. Will I grumble and complain? Will I stomp and lament and wonder why He isn't changing things?
(I do that, sometimes.)
It takes an act of my will and the grace of the Holy Spirit to pull myself back into line. I have to remind myself that God is for me; He loves me; He knows what is best for me and He is able to take everything that affects me and work it out for His pleasure and my good.
Our children are watching our responses as we walk through difficulties. They want to know if we really believe the things we teach them. They need to see us lean into Jesus in those times.
Will we drink the cup He has placed before us? As Jesus prayed in the Garden ...
"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."~Luke 22:42
I think it's important to see here that Jesus did ask for the cup to be removed! We are not offending God when we ask Him to change our circumstances. But when we pray and He doesn't change them; when the fires rage or the waters rise ... it's there we find the question remains: Will I drink this cup? Will I do it with grace?
How about you? What cup is the Lord asking you to drink? Let's pray for one another.
I wrote the book, Dancing with My Father, when I was trying to figure out how to let him lead through the challenging pathways of my life.