Joy, Prayer, and Gratitude

Many times I wonder what God’s will is for my life. What college should I attend? What major should I take? What should I do with my summer? The questions go on and on, usually without any definite answers (at least not right when I want them) so that I end up living one month, week, day, or moment at a time, uncertain as to exactly what God wants of me.

But on the other hand, there are instances when God astounds me with the clarity in His Word. Lately, as I have been reading through the New Testament, I have been searching for what I call “Purpose Passages.” These are verses which tell me what I am meant for, how God wants me to use my life for Him. I have actually been surprised — and wholly excited — by the number of such passages that God has shown me. But perhaps the most shocking thus far is 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, which reads:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

What caught my attention was the last portion, which says, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Certainly I knew that rejoicing, praying, and thanking God were things we should do, but I never thought of them as God’s will for me. When God designed me, He intended that I should “[r]ejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” That sounds so…happy. And, honestly, truly wonderful! It is incredibly exciting that God wills this for every Christian! He wants us to have joy, to constantly talk with Him, to have sincere gratitude residing in our hearts. What could be better?

Yet, as I read those three seemingly simple commands, I realize that they are not nearly as easy to follow as  they would appear to be. They do not happen on a regular basis…and they should. They are the sort of commands which sound so fairy-tale perfect that it is hard to imagine them happening in modern-day reality. And yet, I know that they are a genuine possibility because,

“…with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

So then, in application, what might 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 look like in my life?

1. Rejoice always. God has given me incredible blessings to be joyful about! Baby goats, a horse to ride, a love for walking and running, good books to read, the ability to write, a fantastic family, twenty secluded acres in the Bull Mountains of Montana, a wiggly dog who wakes me up with kisses in the morning…. I could go on and on! There are a lot of rotten things that happen in life, but I need to look for the good things. The old adage “every cloud has a silver lining” is definitely true. Even in the most miserable, dreary, terrible day, I can find joy in God’s presence and in the hope of His return. Joy must be sought before it can be found. Satan would love to tear me down with frustration and hopelessness, but I must keep my eyes on the joy Christ offers. My mind and heart need to be open to the little things of life — the wildflower on the ground, the scent of hot cocoa, the way the sunlight glistens on my horse’s neck, my quiet moments with Mom in the morning before anyone else is awake. They are little things, but they can — and do — bring joy to my heart.

2. Pray without ceasing. If one of my best friends from Lewtana were with me all day, I would not stop talking with her, would I? Of course not! I would not necessarily be doing all the talking; I would be listening, too. And I can do the same with God. He is with me 24-7, so I can pray with Him all the time — talking and listening to Him. Who knows what He wants to teach me through such ordinary tasks as vacuuming, painting the garage, feeding baby goats, doing homework, etc. It seems as if I learn the most valuable lessons through simple things like these. I am confident that Christ has a great deal to teach me…if I will take the time to listen and discuss things with Him.

3. In everything give thanks. This command seems to go hand-in-hand with “Rejoice always.” If there is always something to be joyful about, then there is always something to be thankful for, right? Even in difficult, discouraging situations, I can always find some part of my life to be thankful about. In addition, I can be thankful for “bad” things because when trials and tribulations come my way, I know that they are intended for my spiritual growth and development. When times get tough, I need to be grateful that God will use it for good, that He can be glorified through the way I handle the situation, and that the challenge can help me to become more like Him. Now, I know being thankful is not always easy; my sinful human nature makes it more natural to complain and grumble when things go wrong. But what if I did look at even the difficult situations with “an attitude of gratitude?” Why, then the whole picture would change! I would see hope, encouragement. I would realize that no obstacle is insurmountable with Christ, and that each mountain I must climb will only serve to bring me nearer to Him.

Now, it is time for me to put this passage into practice. In summation, I need to 1) keep my eyes open for the joy around me; 2) talk to my Best Friend and listen to what He has to say; and 3) thank Him, thank Him, thank Him!

This is, after all, His will for my life.

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