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 (Emphasis mine)
All circumstances??? At times that is almost impossible for us to imagine, let alone do. How do we give thanks when a natural disaster like a tornado or fire destroys our home? How do we give thanks when a loved one (or even ourself) is diagnosed with a life threatening illness? How do we give thanks despite the pain and heartache when our world seems to be crashing all around us? I can hear my mother tell me to look for a silver lining or look on the bright side. Oh, that is so much easier said than done!
About 11 years ago my husband was stricken with an aortic dissection that went from between his shoulder blades to his renal arteries. He survived it, praise the Lord. That night as he was air-lifted to a major trauma center, I drove alone in my car and found no words to pray initially and then I started to repeat the Lord's Prayer. Each time I got to the phrase, "thy will be done" I choked back sobs. Then, I thanked God for blessing me with the 15 years we were married and for our children and completely surrendered our family to His will. Amazingly enough, weeks later, I found out that my husband was on board that helicopter saying the same prayer of thanks and surrender. Give thanks in all circumstances...
My husband and I are not strangers to trials. In our 27 years of marriage, we have endured many trials and have overcome obstacles like long term unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosure, living with and caring for a parent with Alzheimer's Disease, miscarriage, diagnosis of a genetic disorder in my husband and two children, months of hospitalization (his), numerous hospitalizations for our two children including major back surgery, a teenage pregnancy (a happy crisis except for the fact she was extremely high risk. Praise God it all worked out fine.) Most recently, my mother died suddenly in November 2010 and a few weeks later I lost my job of 10 years. This list is far from complete, yet as long as this list of trials seems, the list of blessings is longer! He has made Himself known time and time again.
So, how do we follow these instructions found in Thessalonians? Here are some ideas that help me:
1. To be joyful always, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to guard our thought process and to nudge us when a negative thought tries to take hold of us. Rebuke the pity party! Even when things look bleak, turn to Him and offer Him Praise. Do this over and over. I find that offering Him Praise will almost always change how I feel.
2. Praying continually should be second nature to us however many of us struggle with this aspect of the Christian walk. Just talk to Him as you would your best friend. Tell Him everything, including how Awesome and Mighty He is!
3. Giving thanks in all circumstances takes discipline and practice. Think of Job. Despite all that He went through He was still able to Praise the Lord.
So, do your best to be joyful, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. It's something we all should strive for during our darkest hours as well as during our happiest.