In this surreal time, we can let our lives be dictated by the circumstances of our situation, or we can live according to the reality that our lives are “hid” with Christ in God. How exactly do we do this in the midst of so much tumult? One way is to learn to give thanks “in all circumstances,” as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5.
We are living in a surreal time, one that can feel like an apocalyptic movie. Life is full of highs and lows. Things can be going great and then they are gone. We are learning this at this point in history. This is what James taught us when he wrote James 4:13-14. We are a “mist,” meaning things are not as permanent and predictable as we have assumed in our scientific age. We have thought that our lives would work out in one way, but that has not proven to be the case.
As God’s people, we are not simply waiting for this pandemic to end. “In all things, God is working” as Paul wrote in Romans 8:32. Our job is to ask how we can cooperate with God in the movement of the Kingdom. In some ways, this seems like a forced sabbatical. For many, this pandemic has forced the freeing up of time. The purpose of a sabbatical is a built-in reminder that we are made for the Lord, not for work in order to achieve things.
This is an opportunity for new beginnings. We are challenged to use this forced sabbatical to our benefit, and the benefit of the Kingdom. There are a multitude of things that can arise that will serve as opportunities to advance God’s Kingdom in our lives and in the lives of those around us. These range from taking time to read or reflect in God’s presence, to using your money in more constructive ways, to spending time with those you love. This time of life, while challenging, can serve as a launch pad for a new way of living.
In this season, we are challenged to ask how this time can be a period to get to know God in a new way. While the virus is from the kingdom of darkness, God can use this as a time to introduce new light into your life.
One way to reframe our situation is to practice the discipline of gratitude. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, we read, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We are challenged to give thanks not for all circumstances, but in all circumstances. We are to look for other reasons to give thanks. Paul’s words to us are not spoken out of the experience of a pampered life. He experienced threats, beatings, personal attacks on his reputation, shipwreck, and imprisonment, yet he learned to give thanks in all of these situations. This is the will of God, not a recommendation.
Why should we give thanks? There are three reasons. First, God deserves it. All that is good in the world comes from God, and for this we should be thankful. Secondly, we are wired to do this. This teaching actually correlates with the modern findings of the science of gratitude. In studies, where people we consistently grateful, they were happier, more social, exercised more, and were less likely to get sick. And third, gratitude is a dimension of love. We cannot love another person without being thankful for who they are. Gratitude for others gives us the ability to see them with fresh eyes.
In times of hardship, our fallen inclination has trained us to complain. In this moment, which is all we have—because we don’t have tomorrow, we can learn to appreciate what God is doing in us and through us now.
This pandemic reminds us of how transitory life is. Let’s look, appreciate, and give thanks in this midst of this circumstance.
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