Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anything and Everything

Day of Thanksgiving
November 26, 2008
Philippians 4:6

What do you do when you’re in distress over what will happen or you’re not at ease with the way things are going? The Bible’s answer is, don’t be. “Do not be anxious about anything.” There are some things we might feel we ought to be anxious about—you lose your job, your relatives are causing you grief, you’re under a lot of pressure at work—but the word “anything” means just that, anything. Bad things will happen to you, of course. There will be things that will cause you hardship. But that is because we live in a fallen world. Our Lord in His infinite wisdom allows certain things to befall us. That doesn’t mean He wishes bad things upon us, but He allows them even as He uses them for our good.

This is why we aren’t to be anxious. About anything. Because if our Lord can—and He does—use things that cause us distress and unease for our good then being anxious about them will get in the way of His powerful work.

So if your natural response to difficulties is to worry, how do you stop worrying? How do you keep from being anxious and dwelling on your uneasiness? This is very hard, because it’s front and center in your life at the moment. The key is to look at the big picture. What you’re going through right now is temporal. It will not last forever. And, yes, that includes things that last your entire life. Nothing can take you away from God’s eternal care for you, not even struggles that seem never-ending.

Remember that what you experience in life, whether good or bad, will not remain. We’ve all heard the saying, “This, too, shall pass.” We normally think of hearing that or saying it when things aren’t going well. But it’s true of good things, also. If you’re going through a rough spell, remember, this, too, shall pass. However, if you’ve got a spring in your step because everything seems to be going your way, remember, this, too, shall pass. If it didn’t, you might think that everything is just fine, and before you know it, you’ve drifted away from God.

It’s in the hard times of life that God strengthens you. So don’t be anxious. Rather, let your requests be made known to God. It’s a simple thing, really. It just seems difficult, but that’s why they’re called difficulties. We often make the difficult times in our lives more difficult by worrying, being anxious, dwelling on our uneasiness. There’s a simple answer to this—prayer. Let your requests be made know to God.

It sounds easy. It is easy. So why does it seem so difficult? One is because we’re sinful. Two is because we’re often so busy worrying and being anxious. But a third reason may be the most difficult of all. We are not just to pray, to bring our petitions to God, but with thanksgiving. And it’s not just for the things we think we need or the things we want, it’s in everything. In everything we are to give thanks. When we’re so busy worrying, we can’t imagine how there’s any reason to give thanks in the midst of difficulties.

But the reason we must give thanks in all things, both good and bad, is because then our prayers aren’t just about what we want, but about what God wills for us. His will is perfect and His will is what is best for us. That’s why praying in thanksgiving is the solution for our being in distress and our uneasiness. When we give thanks to God in all things then our focus is on Him rather than on our distress and uneasiness.

Is this possible for us to do? We are only human, after all. It is extremely difficult for us to get our thoughts and emotions off our troubles and onto Christ. The truth is, it’s not possible. Our sinful nature is going to bring us down every time. But that’s where the thanksgiving comes in. We give thanks that though we are weak sinners, Christ has drowned our Old Adam in Baptism. What has come forth is a new creation that is forever united with Christ and His perfect life.

Christ in His suffering prayed to His Heavenly Father that His Heavenly Father’s will would be done. It’s hard to imagine Jesus giving thanks as He was sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. But doesn’t the fact that He prayed His Heavenly Father’s will would be done show us that He was thankful for the suffering He was undergoing to bring about salvation? This was the focus of Jesus’ prayers and thoughts. In His distress He was not anxious or ill at ease but humble, prayerful, and thankful. In our distress we turn our thoughts and focus onto Christ and His suffering in our place. We know that all things we undergo in this life will pass, but our place in the Kingdom of God will remain. In anything and everything we give thanks because the one who endured all for us has given us reason to be eternally thankful. Amen.


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