I am wrestling with 1 Thessalonians and in fact have been for a number of weeks now. It is not the letter as a whole that is challenging me, reforming me, but one sentence that reads:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 5:16-18
Rejoicing is something, when done correctly, places all our focus on God. It is not to be mixed with or confused by “the pursuit of happiness.” rejoicing always covers the times that we are not at our best. We fall flat on our faces, our relationships are not in good places, and a smile is difficult to manage when we examine all our disgraces. Rejoicing is something rooted in belief, a belief that cleaves to God saying “daddy, up please!”
Prayer without ceasing sounds like such an impossible task that not even the most pious among the super Christians could do it. However, that is the point, because piety is not praying without ceasing. Piety, in our hands, tends to gravitate toward well crafted prayers that never falter, say ummm, or get pause not knowing what else to say. That is not how I understand praying without ceasing. Every time that I sigh when the load is heavy the Spirit is praying for me. Every time I think or say Jesus I am calling out in prayer. Every time my heart breaks for that trouble that some many are going through right now. I am praying. God knows we can do more, but don’t let that fact shut you down. If anything let it be something to look forward to, a chance to be heard by the Almighty, who is always present and always listening.
Giving thanks in all circumstances? Now that one is difficult for we exist within a culture that has forgotten how to say the simple and important phrase “thank you.” We are so consumed with the thought that no one faces the challenges that we struggle with in this life, because we are so unique, so different and therefore too consumed by our own worries. We miss all the moments that people around us pitch in to help out. The other day I was really struggling with all that darkness and hurt in the world. It was at that moment that a memory shot to the forefront of my mind of a little girl getting ready to leave with her mom at the close of preschool. She was about to walk out the door and decided to make a bee-line for my leg, wrap herself around it with a huge hug, and say “I love you.” All I can say, all that must be said is “I love you too” and in my heart I say thank you to God many times over for that gift.
May these words encourage you. May you receive the blessing of God’s restorative power. May you be transformed by the love of Christ!