Three tips to get through these hard times!
This is Day 33 of my 40 day Lenten Blog.
"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).
Saint Paul wrote the above words to a people going through some pretty hard times. They were part of his final instructions to the new followers of Christ in the Church in Thessalonica. The Thessalonian Christians were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus and Paul wrote to fill them with hope. And while much of the letter is to encourage the believers to wait for Jesus to rescue them, his final instructions gave them affirmative actions they should take.
"Rejoice always." It's easy to rejoice in good times, but Paul doesn't tell us to rejoice only in the good times. He tells us to always rejoice--even in the bad times. Even when there is a global pandemic killing thousands (and maybe soon millions) of people. Even when our economy is on the brink of collapse and we are unsure of if we will even have a job to go to when this is all over. Even if you are being murdered for your faith, hung up on poles and set on fire to light the streets of Rome, or sent to the Coliseum to be torn apart by wild animals for the entertainment of others--REJOICE! Why? Because no matter how bad it gets in the end we will be with Jesus. As Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand defiantly told his Communist prison guards, "If you kill me I get to be with one I love."
"Pray without ceasing." While we find it hard to rejoice in the hard times, we often neglect to pray during the good times. We normally have little trouble remembering to pray when things are rough and if Facebook is any indication prayers have increased during this current crisis. But praying more is not the same as praying without ceasing. How do we even do that? I admit I have not mastered it, but it requires a rethinking of what prayer is. Prayer is not just vocal--saying words out loud or quietly in your head. In fact, vocal prayer is just the first level of prayer. There are nine levels of prayer. Others include mental prayer and prayer of simplicity. Mental prayer is meditation. Meditate on something like the resurrection, or the scourging, or the annunciation. Determine how that event relates to your life and then resolve to change your life based on it. Prayer of simplicity is simply focusing completely on God (I say "simply" but it is actually pretty difficult to do). When praying like this you lovingly gaze on the Lord. No words, no thoughts, just a loving gaze. There are many more ways to pray, and I am not competent enough to have tried them all, but the point is when you focus on God you can get through anything. Knowing they would eventually be imprisoned for their faith by the Communist government in Romania, Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina memorized every Bible verse where God says "Do not fear." Those words are used 366 times, one for each day of the year, including February 29. While imprisoned and tortured Richard would meditate on that day's verse.
"Give thanks in all circumstances." This can be pretty hard to do sometimes and I admit that I fail to do it A LOT! But it is good to remember that we always have something to be thankful for. If your spouse has the Coronavirus be thankful that he or she is not dead. If he or she is dead be thankful that your children are not dead. If your children are dead be thankful that they no longer have to suffer in this world and are safe with Jesus. Being thankful for the good in the midst of the bad will help to remind you that God uses all things for the good of those who love Him.
Saint Paul's instructions to the Thessalonians is still good advice today. It is not easy to rejoice always, pray without ceasing or give thanks in all circumstances, but simply beginning to try it will make this life a little easier to bear while we await the next one.
Lord, please help me to rejoice even in the midst of pain, pray even when I don't want to, and give thanks even when I am suffering. Amen.
R.C. VanLandingham is the author of the Christian fantasy novel Peter Puckett & The Amulet of Eternity. He lives in Florida with his beautiful wife and three wonderful boys.