Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-17 (NIV)

I probably feel the same as you do. Go back and read that scripture verse again.

The Apostle Paul wrote it. This is the same guy who persecuted followers of Christ until he had a God-orchestrated “blinding-light-conversion-experience” on the Damascus Road. After that, Paul was imprisoned regularly, lashed five times and beaten with rods three times by his fellow Jews, stoned, shipwrecked three times, constantly on the move and in danger from rivers, bandits, friends who betrayed him, whether in the cities, the country or at sea, and ended up hungry, thirsty, and without sleep.

And Paul’s advice:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.”

I’m with you here—the man obviously has a few screws loose.

Why in the world would we listen to a guy who had gone through all of that and is probably writing out of exhaustion, dehydration, blurred thinking, or anger, and is an obvious candidate for long-term psychological counseling?

We may not have experienced all, or any, of the things Paul did, but we’ve had our share of tough moments and trying times. The rains descending on our lives seem never-ending at times. You’ve lost a job. A young friend died unexpectedly. Your boss is a pain. You anxiously await the doctor’s word on the extent of the cancer. Your spouse has just told you they are leaving you.

Your children or grandchildren seem way too vulnerable and naïve to the evil in the world everywhere, in an ever-changing culture of “political correctness,” and a new world of “social” media (or perhaps more aptly described—“anti-social media”—no longer needing to be face-to-face to “talk”).

And in the midst of all the shipwrecks of our life, we discover that our brains are not big enough, nor our arms strong enough, nor our reach long enough to control or change what we are facing.

And in the midst of all of that Paul says:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.”

Really? That’s it? I’m with you. Paul is a lunatic or at least he’s delusional! There has to be something else we can do, someone else we can listen to, and somewhere else we can go to find relief. Or maybe we can just be angry.

But there it is again, in the midst of whatever we face:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.”

Why? Why does Paul say that? He has to have some appreciation of what we’re going through, from his own experiences. He has to know that life is not easy. Then why does he tell us to “be joyful—always?”

Are you ready? Because what Paul learned through all that he went through right up until the very end, is that God had never left him. And that’s what Paul is trying to tell us. That’s what we, too, need to embrace. No matter what goes on in our lives, God is always there. In the midst of the worst of moments and wildest of scenes, He is still on the throne. Above it all.

In the midst of whatever we are going through, God is still at work. He still controls eternity. He still walks with us, beside us, behind us, before us and carries us when we need to be carried. And no matter how bad things seem at times, He can weave them into a beautiful tapestry of our lives that will have a lasting positive impact, and leave a legacy for good that will glorify Him.

Yet on too many days it seems as though we, or those we love, are heading for an impending shipwreck. Even more reason, I suppose to claim that it has to come down to a matter of trust, no matter what.

And so God, through Paul reminds us to try this—

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.”

God in control. God’s got it all. Today and through all eternity.

In His Name—Scott