Give Thanks – in ALL Circumstances. A Matter of Perspective
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Thank God – no matter what happens. No matter what happens on the outside of your life – Paul is teaching these believers how to live on the inside of their lives.
The challenge is for this joyful outlook/perspective to become constant. Paul alludes to this in other writings. To the church in Corinth he talks about being “sorrowful but always rejoicing.” He adds, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
This is the opposite of what one would normally think. In fact, many would say that doesn’t even make sense! Content in weakness? Content in insults? In hardships – in persecution. When I am weak – I am strong? What does that even mean?
Paul’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus on his way to Damascus allowed him to have an about face on his perspective.
I love what Paul writes in Philippians chapter 3 – “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”
Paul is saying here that he is not putting his confidence in the flesh, in his credentials, in his education, in his position of power – but rather in the resurrected Lord who alone can heal – from within. Who alone can provide strength. In Jesus we can tap into that joy – no matter the circumstance. I had a rough fall. I received the news in early September that I had a melanoma on my leg. The good news was it wasn’t deep and it looked like they removed everything with the initial procedure. But because it was melanoma they would need to remove the margins around the area, just in case any cells had spread. I was looking forward to getting it done and carved out a couple days to put my leg up and let it heal.
Little did I know that a couple days would turn into a couple months. Three – four days after surgery, my stitches got severely infected and I developed cellulitis — a terrible, painful and dangerous (if not treated) skin infection.
When the strong antibiotics didn’t work on my cellulitis infection, the only option I had was for the doctor to take out all 30 stitches and release the infection. That’s not a day I want to relive. I was left with a giant hole in my leg that needed time to heal from the inside out.
I ended up with my leg up on the couch for 4 weeks before I could put any pressure on it. And then another 4 weeks in a boot – that my daughter Leah said was quite fashionable and went with everything.
I really struggled with being “thankful” in this situation. Once I stopped asking the question “why” – because there really is no answer to that — I began to just embrace my situation day to day. I felt hopeless at times. Frustrated and mad at other times. I felt like I was letting people down. I felt like I wasn’t really worth much because I wasn’t “doing” anything – but sitting there trying to let my body heal.
I couldn’t help the kids get dressed, or their breakfast in the morning. I couldn’t drive – and having 4 kids ages 7-14 involves a whole lot of driving. I couldn’t make meals. There were days I was exhausted from crutching up and down the stairs a couple times.
It took awhile, but slowly I realized I couldn’t will myself better. I didn’t have control over the timing of my healing and I just needed to accept where I was. Once I did that, I had a greater sense of inner peace. When people would ask me questions about when this would happen or if I could do this or that, I learned to just say “we’ll see.” I didn’t know how I was going to be from day to day and so I just leaned into that little phrase – “we’ll see.”
People loved on me and prayed me through this difficult time. There were many times I didn’t have the strength or words to pray, but I knew others were praying for me – because somehow I wasn’t losing my mind. I received visits, texts, phone calls, treats and lots and lots of cards. I received over 50 cards of encouragement. I had no idea how much those notes and cards would lift my spirits. I would say it was one of the things I was most thankful for.
Some of the messages in the cards read…
You have been in our prayers during your time of healing.
Whatever it takes to put a smile back on your face… that’s just what I’m wishing for you! God makes all things beautiful… in his time. Praying for you today as you wait on the Lord. God is at work in ways you can’t even imagine.
Slowing down can be tough for someone as on-the-go as you. But right now a chance to recover is just what you need. Thinking of you and wishing you well.
“We get impatient for the next step, the provision, the destination to be revealed… and forget that so often in the stillness of the waiting, He is revealed.”
Remember that after the rain there is a rainbow. And if I have to – I’ll come over and paint the darn thing on your ceiling! Hang in there.
It’s going to be ok. How can you know? Because God so loved the world.
Those were just a few of many, many words of encouragement that buoyed me these past couple months. And I am so thankful for those cards and notes and the prayers and people behind them.
I don’t know what you’re thankful for today. For me – I’m especially thankful to be on the other side of that crazy post-surgery infection. I’m thankful for my husband Mike and my Mom Kath who really picked up my slack. Who helped with the kids and got me to all my wound care appointments!
Let us be reminded that joy and thankfulness are there for the taking – it’s all about our perspective. As we lean deeply into our relationship with Jesus, we know that he alone is our strength. Our bodies will fail – but he will prevail and in our weakness, he truly is our strength.
So whatever situation your are facing, cling fast to Jesus and say, “we’ll see” – he will be with you in the days ahead as they unfold and he will be your strength.
God bless you and God bless your perspective.
KC DiNardo, AssociatePastor of Rising Generations and Connecting Ministries