Proverbs 3:5 (the message)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Some time ago I suffered a loss that broke my heart. I remember praying, teeth literally chattering, and trusting God with the situation no matter what. It wasn’t just a prayer I had learned to pray. I truly trusted Him. And it was probably the first time in my life the two verses above merged into something very real in my life. Not only was I trusting God with all my heart but I chose to thank Him right in the middle of it all. I wasn’t thanking Him for the loss itself, but I remember thanking Jesus, all alone in a bedroom, for His goodness and love and presence within me. Thankful that no matter the outcome, I could absolutely trust Him. This was a loss I had suffered once before, but my friendship with Jesus was so different the second time that I began to glimpse why God tells us to be thankful no matter our circumstance. Gratitude is a balm. It refocuses. It opens the windows in our hurting hearts for the refreshing breeze of Heaven.
Not every day of life is so serious. How about all the days filled with the plain old stuff of life? Overloaded schedules, needy children, cluttered homes, stacks of bills, strained marriages, discouraging test results, disloyal friends, hard-to-break habits and past choices that haunt our sleep. Sometimes we make the Bible part of the big, hard stuff of life but forget God cares about the everyday, grind of life kind of stuff, as well. I submit to you this morning that as we practice gratitude and trust in the plain old stuff of life, we will more readily consider trust and faith, gratitude and surrender in the unexpected, “big” stuff of life. But I don’t share this morning to simply encourage you to trust Him and be thankful no matter what. I write to encourage you that this is the way God wants us to live as we know Him so well it becomes possible. How can we trust the goodness of God in heart-breaking circumstances if we don’t really know for ourselves He is in fact good, regardless of the situation? So often we measure two things by our circumstances: God’s goodness or our spiritual depth. I personally find both of these as constricting traps. Perhaps it is not the way our days pan out or getting the wanted answer to prayer that bring us true freedom and fulfillment. Perhaps it is the nearness of Jesus in the middle of the sunny days as well as the stormy…isn’t this kind of what the apostle Paul writes about in the New Testament? He learned contentment in all circumstances and I suspect, having tasted just a bit myself, that true contentment…this soul-satisfied peace and joy…comes in greater waves the closer we grow to Jesus.
This past Saturday was one of those plain old stuff of life kind of days for me. I was impatient and grumpy with my family. I felt this internal pressure. Like I was just spinning in circles trying to meet the needs of everyone around me. By that evening my husband was cleaning up dishes and changing out laundry as I worked on another item on my “to-do” list. I actually became aggravated that my husband was doing the laundry! I felt like instead of trying to help me he just wanted to show me it could all get done in a snap. I was wrong and apologized Sunday morning after a good night’s sleep (sleep essential!) My husband was trying to help me but I didn’t have a thankful heart that day and it certainly didn’t materialize at 11pm! I wasn’t trusting God that He was at work in my life, even in the chaos.
Sunday morning I found myself texting my sweet friend and leader of the children’s ministry at our church. Shannon and I had been making plans to observe an elementary class in a process of committing to lead a small group on Sunday mornings. See, my heart is to be plugged in and serve and give. As my season in the preschool ministry had closed and I adjusted to baby number three, I found myself drawn to serve in elementary. So naturally I thought, well I need to lead a small group every Sunday and Shannon said he would do it with me!! Awesome!! No matter that I might be biting off a bit more than I could chew right now and more than God was asking of me in this season…
As it turns out, I now am thankful for how God led me directly into an overwhelming and chaotic day on Saturday because He used it to slow me down…give me pause about the committment we were about to make. Neither Shannon nor I take it lightly when we give our word. As I explained to my friend why I wasn’t sure about observing yet, I inquired about another area in the elementary ministry at our church and her eyes grew watery with tears. This other opportunity not only seemed like a better fit for our family right now but was a great need, as well. What she describes as answer to prayer.
As I stood in worship a few minutes later, I felt my way across the jagged edges of what was happening in my own heart. I was ready to plunge not only myself, but my entire family into a committment that first of all wasn’t what God was asking of me and secondly, wasn’t even the prayer He was trying to answer for the ministry that day! I thought back to my struggle the day before and was reminded why it’s safe to trust Him and be thankful in all circumstances. Big and small.
Because God always knows something I don’t know. Even, and especially, in my chaos.