Rejoice. Pray. Be Thankful

November 25, 2014

“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

I was sitting in my Biblical Foundations class a few weeks ago when I noticed that my dad was calling my cell phone. Our class had been reading verses and I was using a Bible app, so my phone was sitting on the desk in front of me. Now I was confused—my dad knew I was in class. He had my schedule. He would never call me during class. So I ignored the call.

Less than a minute later, he called again.

A few minutes after I ignored that call, I received a text message. “Grandpa is in the hospital,” it read, telling me to call back as soon as possible. I can hardly explain the fear of reading the words over and over again. The call I made after class was one dialed with shaky fingers and answered with a nervous voice.

My grandfather had experienced a heart attack and was now in the hospital, my dad told me. They were waiting for some tests. He told me that it was going to be okay, that grandpa was awake and breathing on his own. I spent much time in prayer, taking all my frustrations and worries to God.

“Rejoice always,” the Bible says. Be joyful when things go right; be joyful when things go wrong. Be joyful in every situation, even if that means ignoring our sinful instinct of worry and finding a joyful way of finding hope in the Lord.  True thankfulness means remembering God’s goodness even when things are crashing down.

My whole family back in Michigan awaited the news of the tests, praying everything would be fine, but they received the news that a triple bypass heart surgery was needed. That was the second hard-to-swallow news of the week for me.

The phone calls with my parents were filled with not only stress, but also peace. My father recalled God’s grace throughout my grandpa’s life, and said that this time was no different. Our family had trusted God before, and He had blessed us. We must be thankful for those blessings and remember that this was all in God’s will—all we could do was pray and remember that God is in control.

“Pray continually.” The command was kept by my family during this difficult time. But it made me wonder why we so often forgot about it when things were going well. Part of being thankful is praying in the sunshine as well as in the storm. When things go well for us, that is when we should be praying all the more—God has blessed us and we should be thankful.

It took several days before the doctors could bring him in for surgery, during which my whole family experienced a tense waiting period of more than six hours as the doctors did their best to fix his heart. When I received the call telling me that everything had gone like it should, a wave of thankfulness swept over me. God does provide in the darkest times.

A voice on the other line reminded me of the upcoming holiday. The doctors say that he should be well enough to celebrate Thanksgiving with the whole family. I have no doubt that it will be one of the greatest Thanksgiving celebrations our family has ever experienced.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us. Though the situation in my family was stressful, it was a reminder of this commandment. We had much to be thankful for—my grandpa’s good health otherwise, the doctors who spent hours in surgery with him, the constant love from family, church, and friends, and his joy in all of the pain.

Though Christians are called to be thankful in any situation, Thanksgiving is a special time to think especially of all the blessings we have been given.

There is nothing like having a family together and giving thanks as one unit again after periods of anxiety and separation. Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to find our way home and come together for a special day of thanks, and as Christians, we have much to be thankful for.

God’s providence has blessed my family, and through the trial we have been reminded that we must rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. Maybe Thanksgiving comes at just the right time of year to remind us of God’s many blessings. Rejoice. Pray. Be thankful.

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