Living in Praise

Did you ever notice that Paul was the eternal optimist? The man worked hard, almost died several times, was stoned, shipwrecked and in the sea a day and night, constantly in danger, sleepless, hungry and thirsty, and exposed to both hot and cold elements (2 Corinthians 11:22-28).

Yet, he told us to rejoice always; to pray without ceasing; not to quench the Spirit; and to give thanks in everything: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).

Does this mean to give thanks, because everything that happens to us is God’s will for us; or that giving thanks is God’s will for us? Either way, it is worth paying attention to this verse.

If giving thanks is God’s will, then when we praise the Lord, we are in God’s will; and when we do not praise the Lord, we are out of God’s will for us.

If Paul is saying that we should give thanks in good times and in adversity, because all of these circumstances are the will God for us, then when we do not praise Him, we are missing out on part of the miracle, which God has for us through this trial.

Recently, our air-conditioning was out for two days during the hottest November on record in southwest Florida. I was dripping sweat, irritable and claustrophobic – because the heat imprisoned me and I could not escape it.

This caused me to remember my childhood and first pregnancy; when we had no air-conditioning at all, because of our lack of income. My mom used a wet wash cloth on her neck, so I did too. It helped this time too.

As I prayed during this inconvenience, God brought Paul’s exhortation to my mind. I realized that I was not to grumble or to allow my flesh to get the better of me; and I was to walk in the Spirit and praise God, even in the suffocating heat.

Easier said than done; but I have been learning to live through my spirit and not my flesh and this was just another opportunity to practice. I truly was thankful that the circumstances were not even more dreadful.

Prayer:
Father God, I really wanted Your permission during this trial to be grouchy and to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to complain and gain sympathy from family and friends. However, I knew this would only make others miserable too, and I would not grow in my spirit with negative behavior or remain in Your will without praising.

I know that You were building character in me and preparing me for future events in my life; therefore, I chose to change my focus and to praise You with each drop of perspiration. I was even able to thank You that it cools down in southwest Florida on November evenings, and that I still had electricity and could run the fans. Thank You for living through this trial with me.

Thought for the Day:
Regardless of the circumstances, we are to do all things without grumbling and complaining (Philippians 2:12-16), and to walk in the Spirit each moment of the day (Galatians 5:15-25).

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Rejoicing in Negative Circumstances

I used to think that if I rejoiced in my negative circumstances that I would not be honest with my true feelings. I did not want to pretend to feel the opposite of how I really felt. Yet, Paul admonishes us to rejoice in our tribulation (Romans 5:3). I could not figure out how to express joy without pretending an emotion, which I did not truly feel.

It took a major trial in my life to teach me the key to rejoicing always (Philippians 4:4). After 22 years, the love of my life decided that he could no longer live with my Italian emotionalism. A wall of constant misunderstandings stood between us, so he determined that there was no option for us but divorce. To say that I was shocked is an understatement; yet, I did not want to live where I was not loved.

In the ensuing years, God taught me to be thankful even for these overwhelming negative circumstances, to rejoice in His hope, to have faith in His faithfulness, to be patient through every ordeal and to pray without ceasing (Romans 12:12). He instructed me to focus on the moment, rather than feeling depressed over the past and fearing the future.

I discovered that God is the only true anchor of my soul, and I would always dwell in the inner sanctuary of His Temple, regardless of my marital status and the earthly success of my life (Hebrews 6:19). I experienced the truth that nothing could ever snatch me out of God’s hand, and that I would always enjoy total security in His love (John 10:29). Now, those are real reasons to rejoice forevermore (1 Thessalonians 5:16-28).

Since then, I started looking at every trial as a seed for a miracle, which is just waiting to sprout. I know that there are situations more devastating than the loss of a mate; but I am convinced that Jesus, the Lover of my soul who saw me through that time in my life, will enable me to honestly rejoice through any future negative circumstance, large or small (Matthew 11:28; Psalm 23).

Prayer:
Father God, You have a divine purpose for everything that happens to Your children. Thank You for teaching me to trust You regardless of how negatively my circumstances develop. You filled me with Your presence through every moment of that nightmare, and You guided me by Your Spirit in all of my ways (Romans 8:14). Although I still grieve over the dissolution of my family unit, You restored my ministry as a pastor’s wife and You gave me a new husband who gives me more love than I ever imagined was possible on this side of heaven.

Thought for the Day:
There is no negative circumstance in our life that God is not orchestrating for our good. – Romans 8:28