I got in a fight last week (Tuesday to be exact) with someone very close to me. And when I say fight – I mean really bad and ugly. I started this post on Friday when I still wasn’t over it completely. We are talking and interacting, but my heart is still broken.
I was asked to go through my blogs and pick a couple out to share with my son. I came across one from a couple years ago which listed 17 verses to keep for when you want to give up.
One of the verses popped out at me as unreal:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New Living Translation (NLT)
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
I have read this passage many times. It is a very positive passage. But right now it doesn’t seem accessible to me.
Joy is not what I am feeling.
I have not been thankful.
And to be honest, it wasn’t ‘til last night that I finally reached out to God in tears for the first time since the argument.
I sit here staring at the screen, thinking to myself “Kate you write to help people THRIVE! How are you going to turn this piece around?”
Isn’t that (so) right out of today’s culture: hurry up and make it all go away so we can feel better. We find a million ways to distract ourselves from pain and when we can’t we fall prey to depression and/or grief, anger, or a host of other negative emotions.
We don’t like to feel… not the bad stuff anyway. But there will always be bad stuff. No one is exempt.
So how do we “always be joyful & be thankful in all circumstances”?
In 2 Corinthians 6:10, Paul described himself, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” In Romans 12:15, he tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” He does not say, “Exhort those who weep to stop weeping and start rejoicing!”
It goes on to say:
So “rejoicing always” is a conscious attitude of contentment, hope, and happiness that comes from deliberately focusing on Christ and the eternal treasures that we have received freely from Him.
I’m not going to lie…even this is hard for me—BUT it is hope filled.
It is easy to wallow in sadness. To let it linger even when we have moved on with other tasks. For me: I find my face sinking and I sigh a lot to myself.
It really does take discipline, and focus through effort, to keep our mind on Christ and the Father when life is not as we want it.
Sure, there are times when we cry out immediately and cannot do anything else other than pray. But there are other times when we think we should be able to handle our load by ourselves because that is what we are told by society, our media, our relatives, our friends, by what we see and hear from others.
I love what Bible.org said: So “rejoicing always” is a conscious attitude of contentment, hope, and happiness that comes from deliberately focusing on Christ and the eternal treasures that we have received freely from Him.
It is a conscious decision.
It is a choice to be made.
We have to be aware that it is ours to make.
Not only that but our focus is on our eternal gifts and not our earthly circumstances.
Have you ever noticed you cannot feel happy and sad at the exact same moment? You can feel happy in a period of sadness. But at that instance you are not experiencing the true negative emotion of sadness as happiness crosses your heart.
Hence, if we focus on God’s goodness during times of distress…at such moments our hearts will be filled with Joy. Maybe it won’t be for an hour at a time. And maybe it will. But a few minutes at a time to get our minds off our troubles goes a long way when added up over the day and evening.
So where did I start, today, to turn things around?
Well first I went to an online concordance and looked up forgiveness. There were over 1600 references. That is way too many for me to look up.
Then I remembered that we are to focus on the eternal blessings. So I went to OpenBible.Info. In their topics I put in “promises of God”. I got the top 100 verses on God’s promises written out for me.
Next, I entered in the topic “forgiving others” and got the top 100 verses on that.
By focusing on God’s eternal love for me, I get out of myself and my petty temporary concerns that will work themselves our over time– one way or another. By focusing on God’s promises for me, I find the peace that Christ left for me and the comfort that I am to share with others who walk the same road that I walk. My heart is filled with Joy. Joy: a deep contentment and peace; not necessarily happiness.
Now to the verse about “Be thankful in all circumstances”. When I looked up synonyms for “be” there was a distinction for words that pertain to “staying in the same place or condition.” The words listed there include:
* hold on
* hang on
So basically “stay thankful”…but what about when you can’t? Then “hold on to being thankful!”
Holding on offers hope. It implies there is a reason to do so. That there is a strength beyond that which is ours alone. And as Christians – there is… it is that of the Father (Mother/ Spirit).
Being is not the same as feeling!
The Bible does not say “feel thankful”. Several times it tells us to “give” thanks. But it doesn’t tell us to feel thankful.
We can tell God “Thank you” for many, many things whether we feel it or not.
Do we still have parents alive– do we have another day to spend with them or to reconcile the past?
Do we have children alive- healthy and happy or even sick or in jail– are they alive still with the hope of tomorrow?
Do we have most of our health intact- maybe not everything is working but is part of our health in tact?
Do we have shelter- whether our own or staying with someone or in temporary housing?
Are we in the Ukraine? No? Then THANK YOU LORD!
Do we have a job or is there still a place to apply in town?
If we are addicted there are 24 hr zoom meetings to help us.
There are churches to help with food and clothing.
Is it sunny and beautiful?
Is it rainy with the hope of green tomorrow?
Are we scarce on food but ate today?
In 2017 I lived in an apartment where the plaster was falling off the walls. The floors were missing bits of particle boards and caving in. The walls were all marked up.
When I moved in I was desperate. I made a deal with my landlord that I would clean the apartment if they moved my furniture for free. It took 2 outdoor trash bins just to put the trash from the living room out. (A hoarder had lived there before me). It wasn’t until many trash bins later that I realized how bad the place was. But I was grateful. IT WAS MINE! And it was away from intrusive neighbors.
I went on a vacation that Spring with my family that is quite well off. We stayed with their friends in a very nice home. I ALMOST cried when they showed me the room I would be staying in. It was so pretty.
I tell you this because 2 months ago I moved into a place that pretty.
But I do not cry out of gratitude. I cry out of depression. I mentally know that this place should be bringing me to tears of gratitude but I cannot FEEL it.
I wrack my brain and beat myself up. My son is grateful all day everyday…but I cannot access it.
I hate depression.
BUT– that does NOT mean I cannot SAY THANK YOU!
Depression sucks the life out of people. I get that! I do! But we can still SAY “thank you”.
So, if you are going through a period in your life when you cannot bring yourself to “feel” thankful because you are feeling too many other negative emotions…just BE thankful. Make a list of each and ANYTHING that is good in your life. Even list neutral things. Then go down the list throughout the day and express gratitude for them to God.Joy
It is important that we pray in thanksgiving even when we don’t feel it. We are commanded to do so.
Even in this argument I need to be thankful. How? I don’t know– but I do. Because the scripture says that God will work all things out for the good. So today, I say, “thank you God. I don’t understand. I don’t know what to be grateful for. I don’t see your plan or the way through. But thank you Lord.” (“and God, P.S. sorry it took me all week and a blog post to get to this point”) Amen.