Always be full of joy in the Lord…don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4,6-7 TLB
Throughout Scripture you find verse after verse about giving thanks to God, both in times of blessing and adversity. But how do you give thanks when your world is falling apart? And how can you thank Him, I mean truly thank Him, if the answers are not what you want to hear?
Everyone knows someone who is going through adversity. That “someone” might even be you. So how can God expect us to rejoice, let alone give thanks, when our life is unraveling?
Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison. As you read his account, you can feel the tug of war between pain and victory. Part of him wants to go home to be with the LORD, the other part wants to continue his work so that Christ may be glorified. Did Paul enjoy imprisonment? No. But if going through adversity meant he could “shine like stars in the universe as [he held] out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16 NIV), then knowing he had not run or labored in vain was worth the sacrifice.
Rejoicing in adversity does not mean we rejoice because of hardship. It means we rejoice in the knowledge that God is walking with us the entire way, that He does not and will not leave us alone. Giving thanks in adversity means we put our trust in God to know the big picture, and that we have complete faith His will for our life is grander than our own. It does not mean we have to be thankful for the problems, only that we are thankful to have a God big enough to hold us up and walk with us as we face the impossible.
God wants to hear our prayers. His desire is to have the same relationship with us any loving parent would want to have with their child. Life issues? Talk to Him! Heartbreak? Talk to Him! Bad day? Talk to Him! Don’t try to take on burdens, don’t try to solve all of life’s dilemmas because if you do, you’ll be crushed under their weight. Instead, rejoice and give thanks that you have a God whose shoulders are strong and broad enough to carry your burdens, and whose love for you is so great that His desire is to do so. Then, as Paul concluded in Philippians 4:7, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”
LORD, November is traditionally a month of giving thanks. But sometimes giving thanks is hard. Life throws us curve balls, some of which hit us smack dab in our middle, knocking the air out of us. We fall to the ground and don’t want to get up. During these times, hear our cries, O LORD. Lift us up. Carry us. Show us that in times like these we not need rejoice because of the hardship, but because we have a God who can and will carry us through it. Give us peace, O LORD, when there is no peace to humanly be found. And help us to rest in You. In Jesus’ beautiful name we rejoice and give thanks. Amen.