I can’t believe we have entered the first week of August! This summer has certainly flown by! In just another week and a half school will begin, and before you know it, it will be time for Thanksgiving and Christmas! As I say that, I’m anxious, saddened, and excited all at once!
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon tells us: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (selected verses).
Of course we all understand this. We go through seasons of life – some good, some bad, and some “normal”. But we know that whatever we’re going through is just for a season. Seasons change and so do our circumstances. That can be encouraging when we’re going through hard times, and that can be disheartening when we’re in the happy times.
No matter what is happening in our lives, Scripture tells us that we are to “be joyful always, pray at all times, and be thankful in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). True joy is not mere happiness and smiles, in fact, sometimes you can be joyful and profoundly sad at the same time. Joy has to do with our attitude in the midst of our life experiences. No matter what we are going through we can choose to rely on God and trust in his plan for our lives.
A counseling professor of mine, Dr. Greg Delort, drilled into us that the question, “How does that make you feel?” is a very bad question to ask. The reason? Nothing has the power to MAKE us feel anything. No matter what we’re experiencing, we ALWAYS have the choice to make about how we will respond. As a Christ-follower, I can take comfort that God is always with me, so no matter what I’m going through, I’m not alone.
But how do we find true joyfulness, a true attitude of joy, in the midst of suffering and pain? The answer is in the second and third parts of the passage. We are to pray and be thankful.
Prayer is our direct link to the Creator. It’s the primary way we have fellowship with God. When we pray, we speak with God, telling him our hearts, and we also listen to God, asking him to speak to us through the Holy Spirit. Often we think that prayer is only the time we are actually talking to God, but in reality, some of the most rewarding times of prayer are times spent being still, simply listening for God’s voice. As we pray, we connect to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the giver and sustainer of life. Through this connection we start to get a picture of the eternal matters of God’s heart. When we are able to recognize what’s really important through prayer, we begin to be thankful for the many blessings God has given us. That can give us the encouragement we need to make it through whatever season we may be going through.