Life is usually harder than we expect making it difficult for even the most spiritual among us to maintain a joyful spirit. One writer described his pastor’s efforts like this: “For the last 12 years, our minister, his wife, and two sons have been building a cabin in Maine during their vacations. Each time they go to a nearby lumberyard for needed materials. On their last visit, the proprietor was filling out the sales receipt when the pastor started to grumble about the ever-increasing cost of building supplies. “Why, when I started this project, sheet rock was only $2.00 a sheet, and now it’s $7.00!” he complained. In a terse Northeastern twang, the Mainer replied, “Don’t work very fast, do ya?”
I sympathize with that brother. Just think of all the disappointments poised to pounce on our joy. The economy is bad, unemployment is high, government is gridlocked, healthcare is skyrocketing, and the golden years we save for aren’t nearly as golden as we imagine. Yet, my Christian faith forbids me to complain commanding me to “consider it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (Jam. 1:2-3) and to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:5) “
Tall order, isn’t it? This year alone, my wife and I underwent a major job change and decrease in our monthly income followed by a 5-month long battle against cervical cancer, which she’s winning, praise God! But what is easy to overlook in the midst of our troubles is the longer list of God’s blessings – friends who have faithfully supported us, a new ministry risen from the ashes of the old, virtuous daughters married to men of God who’ve helped us however they can, our first grandchild due to arrive in 4 weeks, enough income to meet our expenses, and best of all, the daily presence of Jesus to comfort us and sustain us whenever we call upon Him. Instead of clouding our view of His goodness, our trials should simply be the black backdrop against which His grace shines brighter.
Knowing that life doesn’t usually turn out the way we’ve planned, I memorized a hymn years ago whose words continue to encourage me to this day. It says –
There are several things this hymn teaches me. First, it reminds me that there are no accidents. God must approve whatever enters my life and works all things together for my good using every circumstance to mold me into the likeness of Christ. (Rom. 8:28) He also knows what I can bear and mixes the right amount of toil with rest, so I can enjoy a measure of pleasure even in the worst trials. And He loves me so intimately that He does this on a daily basis, “giving unto each day what He deems best.” This means I can rest content in His will, refusing to chafe against my trials for I know that these are the very means by which He is changing me into the likeness of His Son. For if there were only pleasure and peace, I would drift away from God. But because there is pain mixed with pleasure, I stay close to Christ being made like Him in the process.
We wish you the happiest Thanksgiving ever! But don’t forget the recipe for it. You recognize how God has blessed you, even though you do not deserve it. To that you add trust and gratitude for His perfect wisdom in giving to you each day what He deems best, both its pain and its pleasure. “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)