RejoicingI received an e-mail from an old friend last week. He basically stated that the world is in such a mess that the only thing to do now is to hope that Christ returns soon. While few may share his strongly theological perspective on life, many will be able to identify with his sense of despondency. Daily the media suffocates us with words like “war, terrorism, death, anthrax, lay-offs, hatred, bleak economy, recession…”

Who wouldn’t be down, except possibly for Seattle Mariners fans who saw their team thrashed 17-2 in game three, but who went on to win the next two games and the play-offs. (For the uninitiated, the Seattle Mariners are a baseball team.)

In the face of so much sadness and tragedy, Christians are told that it is God’s will that we are to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)” and that we are to “give thanks always” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Hello? Are you kidding God? Rejoice? Give thanks? Surreal at best. Unreal expectations surely, in the present circumstances. How on earth are we to give thanks and rejoice when everything sucks?

Let me quote from Charles A. Wanamaker. In his commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians, he writes:

“To rejoice always is to see the hand of God in whatever is happening and to remain certain of God’s future salvation. To thank God at all times is to see God working in every situation to bring about the divine saving will. This is not to say that God causes suffering and affliction, but to acknowledge, as Paul does in Romans 8:28, that God works for the good of the elect through every situation.”

Rejoicing and giving thanks today would be totally irrational if not ludicrous, if not for the fact that God holds human history firmly in His hands, working out His purposes in and though even the worst of circumstances. He has done this before of course. Israel’s long exile in Babylon, for example, was used by God to purify His people.

The only antidote to despair in difficult times is the realization that the God who loved us enough to come die for us, is at the wheel of history. Funny how easily we forget this, especially when things are going well. Maybe that is why squeezed between the commands ‘to rejoice’ and ‘to give thanks’ is the command ‘to pray always’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Prayer here is no mind numbing mantra to anaesthetize us from the pains of the world. Prayer here is a spirit awakening communion with God that strips away the illusions of life.

We are not in control of life. But neither is life out of control. God is in control. Rooted in Him we find the quiet joyful confidence to get on with the business of life