Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Sometimes the simplest statements can have the most meaning. If ever you needed an exercise in memorizing scripture, this would be a good opportunity, whole verses in as little as two words.
Notice the simplicity of these verses, some of the shortest in scripture. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. With statements like these, we can memorize them, recite them, even say that we believe and, sometimes, do them.
This month, we have the chance to practice giving thanks. One full day set aside to reflect on the nature of thanksgiving while we count those blessings and cite God’s provisions while overeating and watching football. I share it this way because we can affirm these practices without taking time to note that they can also be the most difficult to implement. Sure, one day to rejoice, pray, and give thanks sounds well and good, because it’s convenient. We have a day given to us to pay attention to it.
It’s made simpler for us.
What about the other days? How about those times when it’s harder to hold to these instructions? In times of sorrow and tragedy, to employ these practices can not only prove to be trying, but nearly impossible. Yet, we’re told that to do these things is the very will of God evident in our lives. Why?
Why is it so necessary? Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. Sure, it might sound easy enough, but to really give them due diligence, as it says, with words like always, unceasingly, in all circumstances. Whew! I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of work. Yet, it remains imperative to our faith to practice these things, because it is God’s will, sure. But why would God will us to do these things?
I believe it to be God’s will because these three things go far beyond the realm of our emotional capacity. Rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks move farther than our momentary afflictions to become practices of the soul. Once we gain a true sense of what it means to live in this manner, we join our existence with that of our Almighty Creator because we can’t help but recognize his handiwork in all areas of life, even those difficult to manage.
In essence, what these three things invite us to do is go from giving to living.
Words like always, without ceasing, in all circumstances are not just casual suggestions for temporary events. These are descriptions for a manner of living that encompasses all aspects of life.
The ability to do those things Paul wrote about speaks to the capacity we have to believe that this world contains a measure of goodness still, goodness housed in God’s ability to continue moving and speaking and creating. The giving part is set for one day out of the year. The responsibility we have is to live it out every single day. It may be flawed and imperfect, but it matters because it continues to connect us with the divine spirit of God at work within us and around us and through us.