In this installment of the "Empowered to Live" series, I want to talk about how we transform a life that is filled with trials and troubles into a life of thanksgiving and “thanks-living”. The ability to transform our lives is found in Paul's first letter to the church of Thessalonica.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It’s easy to do when life is going well and you’re on the mountaintop, but what happens when you are in the valley of the shadow of death and there appears to be no end in sight? When you think that you are on your way through but at the very next bend in the road, it just opens up a wider valley with even more trials than before. Not only are you experiencing these trials and troubles but so is everyone who is closely connected to you.
This is what 2023 has been like for me and my family. We’ve endured physical illnesses, near-death accidents and incidents, financial challenges, work-related stress, and the list goes on. What happens when you are overwhelmed by your trials and troubles? For many, they may choose to escape through suicide, drugs & alcohol, sexual relationships, or making other decisions that lead them further into a pit of despair, depression, and guilt. Paul, who experienced many hard trials and troubles, gives us the solution.
1. Rejoice Always - Look for a reason and a silver lining that you can find joy in. In Jamaica, we have a saying, "tek bad things and mek joke" (translation - take a bad thing and make a joke or laugh about it). Find a reason to rejoice.
2. Pray Without Ceasing or Giving Up - I am reminded of when Daniel prayed for 21 days. Afterwards, the angel of the Lord appeared letting Daniel know his prayer was being answered but it was delayed due to spiritual warfare. It was Daniel's faith and prayer that sustained the angel. Keep praying even if you experience death like Mary and Martha, even when the storms are raging and you feel that Jesus is unconcerned about you perishing - don't stop praying!
3. Give Thanks to God in and for Every Circumstance - Through your tears, fears, anger, frustration, trials, or whatever emotions you are feeling give thanks to God. This season you are in is ordained by God. Whether through a choice you made, the decisions of others, or the circumstances of life, God is able to work it together for your good and His glory.
Give thanks because He has promised to be with you even in the deepest, darkest valley. His rod and staff are there to comfort you. Give thanks for the provision of water and care that He led you to. Give thanks that morning is coming. Give thanks for His promise to give you beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and double for your shame. Give Him thanks for what He has already given you and for what He has already done.
When you move your focus from your current situation or circumstances and begin to look up and out, then you can transform your life of trials and troubles into a life filled with thanksgiving and “thanks-living”.