By Susan Geiger
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
This is a hard word for some us: “give thanks in all circumstances.” There are many in our body who are enduring tremendous suffering and trial. I don’t know how this passage engages with your hearts today. We know that the Lord freely entertains the heartaches and disappointments of his children. The question for me becomes: Who do I want to be in all circumstances? More often than not, I find myself behaving like Jonah. When the Lord declines to grant my desires and agree with my definition of fairness, he asks: “Do you do well to be angry?” I answer like Jonah, “I do.” In my anger, there is no room for Thanksgiving.
The person I want to grow into is Habakkuk, a prophet who lived in hardship and then received assurance from the Lord that the worst was yet to come. After a difficult conversation with the Lord, Habakkuk concludes with some of the wildest words of scripture: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord….”
What draws Habakkuk’s heart to express gratitude and praise? Looking at his response to impending desolation, I see the incarnate Hope prompting thanks and worship. Nowhere do we find the naive hope of “golly, I sure hope things look up!” Circumstances in Habakkuk’s world showed no signs of improving. Still, by faith, he found the Hope worth thanking although all signs of life would be snuffed out.
Our God boldly invites us to look unflinchingly at a broken and fallen world and says it is his will that we give (him) thanks in all circumstances. That feels like insanity if our present circumstances are the only standard we use. I pray that we at NLD would grow into a community of “Habakkuks” who may “tremble” as we look about but conclude with faith: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Happy Thanksgiving!