“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Gratefulness changes our perspective. Our eyes shift their gaze from ourselves onto God. Suddenly instead of “woe is me,” or “look at me,” no matter what our circumstance we can find God.
In our culture, really our human state, we seek comfort, we hate the tension. But God exists in our suffering, in our hard times, stressful times. He is a God of suffering after all. And right before he entered the suffering, Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper. His focus was on God. From there he could enter deep communion with God in prayer in the garden, bringing his full self, his true self, with all the emotions that burdened him to the heart of God. In that moment of weakness that he was brave to admit, he drew on the strength that only comes from God (2 Corinthians 12:10).
It was out of this strength he could walk the path of suffering that would lead to death. Just because he gave thanks and immersed himself in God didn’t mean the suffering would go away. No, quite the opposite, it made the suffering in its complete form become possible to lead to true transformation. We must all suffer. We must all die. We must all cry out to God, why have you forsaken me?
Because Jesus was focused on God he was living in hope and knowledge that his suffering and death would not end there. On the other side of death, the stone will be rolled away and new life will emerge. It is the only way, the way of the cross, the way of the people of the redeemed.
In our own lives, we will all have to walk in the way of the suffering. What if we were brave to sit in our emotion and in our circumstance and instead of praying them away, give thanks and shift our gaze to him, the one who we will draw our strength from. Because God isn’t just on the other side of suffering, he is in it with us. Why do we limit God? We are not him and we do not know his ways. God exists in all places, we need merely look for him. Afterall we’ve been promised, “seek and ye shall find,” because the kingdom of God, where he exists in all of his glory and where we are meant to live is always at hand.
But don’t give thanks in just the suffering, but in the good as well, lest our pride is puffed up and we think all this comes from our hand. No, even in the good our perspective must shift. So whether it would be thanks for the little or for the great we know that God is for us and not against us. I think we take these opportunities to know God, to root ourselves in him, then when the suffering must come we draw on that truth to bravely step forward, to learn more about God and his character and more about ourselves and our identity.