“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“This Thanksgiving sucks…” I’m pretty sure Joshua feels this way isolated in his room since Friday (he’s doing well – almost symptom free while we all tested negative and will test again at the end of this week). But he didn’t say these words. Neither did Justin say this… These honest words came out of the mouth of my beloved wife! She went on to say this Thanksgiving “sucks” because we won’t be seeing any of our family, are stuck quarantining at home, and can’t even spend time all together as a family in our own house! She then qualified her statement with “but I’m grateful for all that God has done and His goodness to us!” I’m guessing some of you may also be feeling this way, not just about Thanksgiving but the majority of 2020.
So how is it possible to carry out God’s will for us in Christ – to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances? The problem with these commands is not that we can’t do these things sometimes – we can rejoice sometimes, pray sometimes, give thanks sometimes. That is very doable. It is the “always” and “without ceasing” and “in all circumstances” that seems impossible. But God wouldn’t give us commands that couldn’t be fulfilled (with His help of course). He wants these things to be true and lived out in our lives as those who belong to Christ.
2020 has actually helped make these commands more real and “attainable” in my life by the grace of God. It is truly possible to have perpetual joy in the Christian life, provided that we see Christ as THE treasure in this life and eternity. What this year has made more clear to me is that Jesus is more valuable and precious than anything this life can give and what we might lose – He is truly better than all these things. I’ve heard some say that this year has taught people to value family and health above all else. Important as those things are, they aren’t our treasure and can’t provide lasting joy. Only Jesus can, not only because He saved us through the Cross but because we now belong to Him for eternity- “I am my beloveds and He is mine!” (Song of Solomon 6:3) So we can rejoice, always.
2020 has also helped make us more aware of our need. There has been many things to cause fear and anxiety – from loss of loved ones, to financial struggles, to uncertainty about the future. I imagine for some of you, this has helped you pray more than you ever have. We then better understand how the more dependent, needy, and reliant we are on Christ for our lives, the more we will pray until we are praying and aware of Christ constantly. This posture of dependence then becomes about more than our needs and struggles – we grow to simply want to be with Him – like a child that wants to stay with their Father when He stays and go with Him when He goes. This kind of praying is more than about asking God for help – it is about communing with Him and being in His presence. When we desire Him like this, we will be praying, unceasingly.
And finally 2020 has helped make us more aware of God’s sovereignty. God is in control of all things. There are no “maverick molecules in the universe” (RC Sproul) and there are no maverick viruses. God is not caught off guard and He is sovereign over all. While we can’t see as He sees and know what He knows, when it comes to the “whys” and “purpose” for all that happens, we can trust that He is over all and that He is good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28) And the more we believe and take comfort and courage in His sovereignty and goodness, we will be able to “give thanks in ALL circumstances” because everything that happens in our lives as His child is ultimately for our good and His purposes. And yes, this also includes our afflictions and suffering. I am thankful that every trial and struggle throughout this year has made me want to cling to Christ all the more – and that is THE Blessing. Thank you Jesus!
Yes, there are things that “suck” about this year and even this Thanksgiving but, more importantly, there has been so much to gain – as in Christ. For those of you who have gone through this year more or less joyless, and have barely prayed, and mostly complained and grumbled about all that has gone wrong; I pray that God would open your eyes to what you do have – you have Christ. “I am my beloveds and He is mine.” And He is more than enough!
Happy Thanksgiving Church!