“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
Since I can remember, people have consistently told me that I am a joyful person, always smiling. Some people voice it to me admirably and others, degradingly. In fact, recently, just before my peers and I were about to go onstage for a show, one of them asked me, almost accusingly, “Why are you so happy all of the time?” I was so taken off guard by the question and its timing that I blurted out, “Well, why not?”
I think the question took me by surprise because I am not always aware of my demeanor, which apparently tends to be upbeat. I don’t share this to boast or say, “Look at me world! I’ve got it all together and I am just one happy-go-lucky girl!” No, in fact, I am very human and am no stranger to experiencing disappointment, anger, or sadness, just like you. But I do want to share the “secret” of being joyful that God showed me.
Fourth through sixth grade, I attended an extremely small school. Literally, there were twenty-two people in my grade, eleven of them girls. So the school sports were great because no one got cut in the “try-outs.” It’s really actually comical looking back on it. I loved the size though, because our teams always formed a tight-knit bond that carried through each season.
Since it was a Christian school, the bond was further strengthened with a unification in Christ. For each sport, we made t-shirts that had a Bible verse on the back. One season we used this verse from 1 Thessalonians which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I don’t know why, but that verse struck a chord with me. There was something about it that was beautiful. Perhaps it’s because it’s what I wanted, to be joyful always. So I took it to heart.
When you look at it, the verse is extremely straightforward. It gives three commands minus any flowery language and then concludes with: “This is God’s will for you.” If you’re someone who likes a road map, well, there you go. This is the “secret” to finding joy. And I would personally stress the third command, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” If we were to take the time, we would be amazed to see how much we really have to be thankful for. No matter what we’re going through, we can always find something.
After sixth grade, I transferred schools and embarked upon a season of change after change. Changing schools, changing states, changing friends. In my life, this was my first real hard spell. We all have these, they just differ from person to person. Through the hard changes and transitions I remembered this verse, specifically the part about being grateful, no matter what.
I realized the more I thanked God for things, however sparse they seemed to be at the time, the more peaceful and content I became. From that place of peace, rooted deep within me, stemmed a life-giving joy. It wasn’t a front that I put on, but rather a reaction to the truth that I knew.
I’m not sugar-coating it; it’s really that simple - be grateful. Tell God every day what you are specifically thankful for and a joy will be instilled that will be hard to suppress. Being joyful is not evidence of being naïve, oblivious, lucky, or having it easy. It is the will of the Lord.