The word jumped out at me during my devotional reading tonight. I stopped in mid-sentence and gave it another look. Taken by itself, removed from the company of its neighbors in the sentence, it has the strange ability to make me smile. It triggers a mental picture of a goofy friend of mine, a teenage cashier at the grocery store where I work, and her usual reaction to almost any suggestion or comment of mine. She rolls her eyes, forms a “W” with the thumbs and forefingers of her hands and mouths, “What-ever” in as bored a voice as she can muster. It never fails to make both of us break out in laughter.
Laughter. That is what God wants for me – a life abounding in love and laughter, according to the Scripture passage I just read: “Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. This is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NCV, emphasis mine).
Always be joyful. How awesome it is that we serve a God Who wants us to laugh and be happy! But many of us face real life situations that are anything but. And yet this passage seems to say that God expects a positive reaction, whatever happens to us.
Thankfully He doesn’t expect us to drum up those positive feelings on our own. Instead He Himself provides the solution to our dilemma in the three words which end the passage: “in Christ Jesus.” When we are in relationship with His Son – hidden in Him, living in Him, relying on Him – then He shoulders our problems. And with our burdens thus lifted we are left with just three responsibilities: Be joyful. Pray continually. And give thanks… whatever comes our way. Surprisingly, the first comes easy when you focus on the second and the third.
Pray continually. But God doesn’t want an endless recitation of the same problems, day after day. In His eyes, prayer is synonymous with “casting our care” (1 Peter 5:7). Yet He doesn’t mean “casting” like a fisherman casts a line, only to reel it back in and cast again. When we cast our care on God we give whatever is bothering us over to Him completely, taking our hands off of it, once and for all. Once given, it belongs to Him. He is far better able to handle our problems than we are. What a relief it is to be able to turn our troubles over to Him!
Once you’ve given away a problem, it’s only natural to thank Him for taking it. And we need to do so before we even see His solution to our concerns. That is what faith is all about – trusting that God will be true to the promises in His Word. Giving thanks ahead of time exhibits that belief and activates God. Over and over in the Scriptures we see God moving when faith, belief and trust are present. Likewise His hands are tied when they are absent. Thus we need to thank God whatever happens, so that He can fix the situation for us.
After that, it’s easy to be joyful. And what better witness is there to others about the greatness of your God than the smile on your face and the laughter in your heart?
I love it when God gives me a picture to illustrate a point. When troubles come my way He reminds me that Jesus was a teenager once, too. Can I picture Jesus rolling His eyes, forming a “W” with the fingers of His hands and muttering a bored, “What-ever” to anything His Father God has to say?! No, but it does make my laughter come bubbling forth… and that just may have been what God had in mind all along.
“I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.”
(John 15:11 AMP)
(John 15:11 AMP)