“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess. 5:18
Something very interesting jumped out at me when I read this passage. Here is the verse in context:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,c encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” – 1 Thess. 5:11-24
Do you see how this little, often-quoted verse is tucked in between many verses about interpersonal relationships? I had never noticed this before, but I think it’s worth considering and pondering. God knows that we don’t always get along with others, even when we try our best. This has been a difficult season for me in the way of relationships. There have been challenges and frustrations, seeming victories that quickly turned to defeat. There have been failures and mistakes in my life, as well as other’s lives, despite a shared desire to follow the Lord.
But can I give thanks for that?
The Bible doesn’t always make things easy for us, does it? We are often called to do things that we just, quite frankly, don’t feel. When my children test my patience, I don’t feel like giving thanks for those opportunities for growth. When my husband is grumpy, I don’t feel like thanking the Lord for an opportunity to practice unconditional love. When my little world isn’t the way I like it, it is not in my nature to say, “Wow, bring it on! This is great, Lord! Another chance to not be so selfish!”
(Even as I write this, my youngest continues to interrupt my thoughts with legitimate needs (Um, breakfast. Hello?!) and none of the rest of my family is able currently to help eliminate my “distractions.” Have you ever tried to get that “brilliant” point down on paper with your child pulling off your leave-me-alone headphones with your inspiring, noise-drowning music and not lose your patience?! And just now God’s still, small voice has awakened me to the irony of the whole situation.)
But that nature – the one that doesn’t feel like dealing with life’s little inter-personal interruptions and disagreements, the one that very much does NOT want to say “bring it on!” – is the very nature we are seeking to kill, isn’t it?
We are striving daily to nail it to the cross. Kill it.
And that takes radical action that is not natural for our weak human flesh. The iron-sharpening-iron process isn’t easy, is it? I mean, pieces of YOU come off! But isn’t that the point? Dying to self. Ridding ourselves of the dull places that blunt our spiritual walk and keep us from being as sharp and effective as God desires us to be.
But, not only has the Lord graciously given us the Holy Spirit, our helper and comforter, but he has also wisely designed us so that our feelings will follow our actions. In my college psychology class, my professor used to joke that if a girl wanted a guy to like her, she should start getting him to do things for her. Drop her pen near him, for example. And eventually, just like that, he would fall in love!
Ha! I’m not sure it’s quite that easy, but there is something very powerful about that principle of feelings following actions. (And maybe that tactic is worth a shot for your marriage-aged children to try? 😉 ) If we know that the process gets easier with practice – that the feelings will follow – doesn’t it give us more strength to obey? And not only that, but we have God’s promise in this passage, as well. He knows that we are mere dust and need encouragement to do the hard things in life.
“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
He says He will surely do it. With that simple word, it’s like He highlighted the promise for us!
This Thanksgiving, perhaps it would be a good exercise to take this verse very literally and thank the Lord for all the “bad” things He has allowed, particularly in your interpersonal relationships. Thankgiving is a time when many of those usually easily avoided relationships are suddenly thrust into your life again.
Is Mom going to ask you one more time if your youngest is reading yet (because she really thinks you aren’t capable of this homeschooling thing anyway)? Wonderful! Another opportunity to cover it with love, “bearing all things and believing all things” by giving the benefit of the doubt that perhaps there is more genuine concern that is evidenced. Is Aunt Sue too particular about the gravy? Thank the Lord for the opportunity He’s provided for you to die to self and do it her way! Are the kids going to run in and out of the kitchen, getting in the way and then having the audacity to ask, “When will dinner be ready and why is it taking so long?” Here is your chance to be patient with their inconsiderate actions (and maybe fit in some character training, as well)!
These are moments for gratitude.
These are moments for growth.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the opportunity for growth! My flesh hates it, but my spirit is willing if it draws me closer to you. Thank you for this season of thanks, that gives me many opportunities for growth in my relationships with others. Help me to be willing to do the right thing in all circumstances and thank you for the promise of your faithfulness that spurs me on!