I heard a funny spin on an old cliché a while back that really made me laugh. It said, “When life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. But, unless life ALSO hands you sugar and water, your lemonade is going to stink.” I tend to be a notorious over-thinker and this very often translates into pessimism so this quote really resonated with me. I must have been having a rather hard day because the verse that came up during my quiet time that very same day was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It reads, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Does this really mean that God expects us to be happy and thankful when we are going through tremendously difficult times in our lives? I don’t know about you but I can’t even muster a smile when I have to just put new sheets on my bed. (That is one of my LEAST favorite chores. Can I get an amen?) So, if I can’t even manage that, how am I supposed to learn to be happy or even thankful when life throws lemon grenades at me?
As I started to really delve into this scripture, I began to see what it was actually saying and not what I was just interpreting. First, I looked up the definition of “joy”. Yes, there are some dictionaries that likened it to happiness. But, it is just so much deeper than that. I finally came across a definition from a biblical dictionary that said that joy is “a state of mind and orientation of the heart; it is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope”. I.love.that. It isn’t saying that we should be giddy and happy but that we should be hopeful and confident in God. Feeling a warm fuzzy from that definition, I moved on to the next part of the verse – “pray continually”. Well, of course. That one is pretty easy to understand and get on board with. Next. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Ugh. So, it isn’t enough for me to just be joyful as I am dealing with hurt and pain but I also have to be thankful for it? That is just asking too much. “But, wait. You read that wrong.” God said. It doesn’t say to be thankful FOR all circumstances. It says to be thankful IN all circumstances. We are to not lose sight of the blessings that we do have in our lives. Those are the times that we need to be mindful of those the most because sometimes they are the only things that are going to help us just get through the day. We should also think back on other times in our life where we thought we wouldn’t survive and remind ourselves of how God not only brought us through it but possibly even turned it into a blessing for us or others.
My original interpretation was completely turned on its ear. Once again, as always, I was looking for what I needed to DO in order for God to step in and help me. It isn’t about that. All he asks is that we not become hopeless and lose sight of who he is and what he has done.
“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10