Give thanks to God!
November 25, 2022
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 (ESV)
Dear Friends and Family,
I love that we have a holiday where a whole culture and civilization makes a point to spend a day giving thanks. Christians lean into this because we know that to give thanks is God's will for our lives...and to do so in Christ Jesus. However, the Christian does this every day, not just once a year.
Looking back at what 2022 has wrought for you, what tops the chart of your list of things to be thankful for? In particular, what about the things that happened this year that makes it hard to give thanks?
Suffering, hardship, pain, loneliness, difficulty, sadness, grief, unanswered questions?
Does God actually call us to give thanks in these circumstances?
Well, the short answer is: YES!
Even in the face of these things, and I would add, because of the gospel, especially in these things.
Now, you might be asking...does God call us to be thankful for the fact that our spouse has died, or for broken and estranged relationships? What about joblessness? Or a spouse's infidelity? A Prodigal child? For miscarriages? Fractured churches? Or missionaries who abandon mission?
The clarity comes when we realize the call isn't to be thankful for pain in and of itself, but to be thankful in the midst of it regardless of the intensity.
Let me be clear: It is good for us to hate death; to hate evil; to hate injustice and the imbalance of scales. It is good to hate the things God hates.
When Jesus was on the cusp of dying, he asked the father to pass the cup of his impending death. Notwithstanding his willingness to submit to His Father, let us consider for a moment that Jesus, in the fullness of His humanity, sympathized with us in our weakness as he embraced suffering.
In the face of suffering he prayed to the Father..."remove this cup". In his humanity, we see a moment in time when Jesus did exactly what we do we when we suffer.
Isn't this your prayer - that your suffering would cease and your anguish would end; that God, if he is willing, to 'take the cup' of hardship and pain? Of course it is.
One - because suffering hurts.
Two - Because suffering is so unnatural. Depending on the nature of your suffering, it represents the vast array and cascade of the disorder brought about by sin and death.
But what is more unnatural than any suffering we can face is the grace of God extended to us, by the Spirit of Christ in us, enabling us to be thankful in the midst of it.
Indeed this is supernatural.
So giving thanks even in your suffering is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Dear Christian - Are you able to do that today?
My prayer for you is this - That your heart would pray with a full and genuine submission, just as Christ, and is able to say: Not my will but your will be done.
Thankful for what then?
If we aren't expected to be thankful for pain but instead in our pain, then you might still be asking - when the pain comes, what are to be thankful for.
Here are five things to be thankful for in all circumstances of suffering and hardship, no matter how intense or troublesome.
(1) You are found in Christ regardless of your pain
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (ESV) 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
(2) Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, not even pain
Romans 8:38-39 (ESV) 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(3) Jesus sympathizes and actively gives us grace in our pain
Hebrews 4:15-16 (ESV) 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(4) Jesus is praying and interceding for you right now...even while you are in your pain
Romans 8:26 (ESV) 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
(5) Jesus himself promises rest when we come to him in our pain
Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Below is a sample prayer I wrote a few days ago inspired as I reflected on Psalm 25. I pray it encourages your spirit.
Looking to the risen Christ
P.S. I will send out tomorrow's regular CCFS newsletter as regularly scheduled.