Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV'84)
As I sat with the LORD this morning on this Thanksgiving Day, it was very easy for me to give thanks to Him. The house is cozy and quiet... my family is all snuggled into their beds... there's a gentle pitter-patter of much needed rain falling outside my window... all of the trimmings for a thanksgiving feast are ready to be put together and I look forward to a leisurely day with those I love. Life is good. I pulled a book by one of my favorite authors off of the shelf. She always has a way of challenging my thinking and pointing me to God's Throne. Today was no exception.
I resumed reading from where I had left off the last time I had picked it up. As the LORD so often does, the theme of the chapter was right in line with what He and I had been talking about. The book is "31 Days of Drawing Near to God" by Ruth Myers (previously released as "The Satisfied Heart"). Her challenge was giving thanks to the LORD for and during the trials - just as much as for and during the good times.
The LORD and I have been talking about that these last 24 hours. I found out yesterday that one of the families in our church lost their 18 year old nephew to a hit and run accident this weekend. A young man, full of promise tragically killed while crossing the street - and on Thanksgiving weekend! There is NO day of the year where an accident like this does not completely devastate all those touched by it but there seems an added injustice when it's on a holiday that is supposed to represent everything but. It didn't take many minutes for my mind to race to another family whose world was turned upside down by a very similar accident 11 years ago.
Carole Lewis and her family were celebrating Thanksgiving 2001, when their daughter Shari was getting ready to back out of their drive way and was hit by a car speeding out of control. In a moment, she was gone. My mind raced to Carole's story so quickly because it was as I listened to Carole share of the greatness of God and His care for her during the moments, days and weeks following Shari's death that I committed to getting to know the LORD like she knew the LORD. As I listened to Carole on the simulcast that day, she said many other things but I am absolutely convinced that if she hadn't testified to God's greatness even in her grief, I would have walked away unchanged. I was greiving. (Carole Lewis, author of "a thankful heart - How Gratitude Brings Hope and Healing To Our Lives" http://www.firstplace4health.com/store/?cat=4&item=38)
Since then, the LORD has brought it about that I would meet Carole several times and now call her friend. I never celebrate Thanksgiving without giving thanks for her and her willingness to share that day. I am a life radically transformed by God, due in no small part, to her courageous testimony.
So, I think of the family of this 18 year old young man. I have to wonder how the LORD will use even this situation. Only time will tell - and even then, maybe not until heaven will we really know. There's a challenge in all of this for me... Do I give thanks in all circumstances? Notice how the LORD says "in" all circumstances. He's not saying "for". It's funny how I find it easy to be thankful in the good times - like today. I can even express gratitude for some of the darkest times of my life - at least now in hindsight - because I learned so much about who God is during them. But I very often fail to give thanks "in" unhappy, stressful or trying circumstances. I have to face it - I often fail to give thanks just when I don't get my own way! Forgive me, LORD.
Ruth Myers put it this way this morning. "Without trials as God's platform for revealing Himself, might we fail to experience the incredible greatness of His power in our personal lives? Just by reading about it in the Bible? That is essential. It gets the concept into our mind. But when we're caught in an impossible circumstance and cry out to Him and He answers with deliverance, then we know on a deeper level: Our God truly is powerful! Apart from difficult circumstances, how earnestly would we seek Him? How deeply would we know Him? I'm sorry to say this, but isn't it true that you and I would soon be distracted and often forget Him if everything always went smoothly?" (Day 10, "31 Days of Drawing Near to God", copyright 1999, Multnomah, a division of Random House Inc.)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 merits repeating...
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
For a further look at this command, visit http://spaciousplace-karrie.blogspot.ca/2011/09/pure-joy.html