In some earlier blog posts I have readily confessed to my inability to trust God – not always, but often enough. Recently, God, through others, revealed to me something that now seems quite obvious. Simply put, I learned that gratitude fosters trust.
Here’s the dilemma I have faced. Our church has had to face some big challenges lately. A tough summer of spotty attendance, which leads to challenges of tight finances, both of which lead to a pastor struggling to lead while leaning into the challenge. It’s true. I have been having a rough bout lately. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud on my blog, but that’s what I do. I figure truth is truth.
Now, I think from God’s perspective the problem is not the attendance or the money. In regard to God’s concern for me, the problem is my lack of trust in Him. While God is all for His leaders working to make things move in positive directions, the internal posture of those leaders is God’s greater concern (and I would say rightly so). God has to be wondering why a man (me) who claims to believe in Romans 8:28 would have such difficulty trusting. In Romans 8:28 Paul writes this:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 NRSV)
You see, I have claimed that verse. I believe in that verse. But at the same time, I don’t always live into that verse.
That began to change recently. A person I consider a spiritual mentor and friend gave me another verse:
…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NRSV)
Give thanks in ALL circumstances. We’re instructed to do this not because we can find reason to be thankful. We’re just instructed to give thanks. And as I lived into this verse and I began to give thanks to God in ALL situations and in ALL challenges and in ALL joys, I began to live into the truth of Romans 8:28. I found myself believing that no matter what was before me, God would work for my good and the good of his ultimate will in this world.
It doesn’t mean good things are bound to happen right away. God’s work could take a long time – after all, a thousands years are like a day to Him. I just found myself trusting God more no matter what. I discovered that gratitude fosters trust. The more I give thanks in all circumstances, the more I trust God with those circumstances. And, ironically, that frees me to work harder and better to change those circumstances. It seems that the more I trust the more the Holy Spirit can move in me and around me.
The lesson I learned is that a verse from the Bible that seems like a crazy call to be obediently thankful in times when I don’t feel thankful is actually a key to unlocking the prison of self-pity, self-doubt, and fuzzy thinking. And that was a lesson worth learning.
So my encouragement to you, my friends, is simply this – give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus, and in doing so you will be able to claim fully the promise that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. It is a lesson that will serve you well all the days of your life.
Holy high-five to you,