“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 (ESV)
Too many times when we read these words, our minds instantly, by human nature, are taken to the moments when we feel good about life. Those mountaintop moments where God is as close as the air that surrounds us. We accept the term ‘all circumstances,’ but never grasp the full meaning behind what Paul is trying to convey to the believers in Thessalonica. We do not understand living a joyful life in all circumstances.
I have mentioned through previous blogs, my pastor’s definition of all is that “all means all.” All circumstances, the good and the bad, the happy and sad, the mountain top experience and the lowest valley – all means all.
Joyful Life Circumstance Lesson #1: It is Easy to Forget Our Past Experience of God’s Provision.
For me, the last year has been a crazy rollercoaster of circumstances. Just over a year ago, I began having seizures. After several months, numerous tests, and medication level changes I was diagnosed with Epilepsy.
My profession, before the medical episodes, was an over-the-road truck driver. Well, according to the laws that govern the commercial driver’s license I hold, I am now disqualified from driving. I can no longer work in the profession that has kept the roof over my family’s head. To top it off, I do not qualify for any disability or financial aid; my wife makes too much money with her job.
In less than 12 months, I went from being relatively healthy and making a decent living to having a debilitating illness and wondering if this month we were going to make ends meet. From comfortable joy to fearful uncertainty. I loved my job. Driving was exciting, and I was able to see God’s creation around every turn. Yes, I was away from my family for a week or two at a time, but the pay was great, and the bills were paid.
This is not our first rodeo. My wife and I have been through many financial struggles, and we always were able to get through them. By the grace and provision of God, we have never been in desperate need. So, you would think that we would fall back on our past experience with the Lord and just roll on. But as bills piled up, disconnection notices start arriving, and the landlord wondered why rent is late, all joy seemed to be sucked out of the circumstance. But God had a plan.
Joyful Life Circumstance Lesson #2: When God closes one door, He always opens another.
From a young age, I have always had a passion for writing. I began writing for pleasure in Junior High School. It began with silly poetry, then a couple of short stories. I had teachers in High School and college praise my assignments, but I never gave a second thought to writing as a profession.
This all changed in 2016. This was the year that writing became a major part of my life. Through a friendly challenge, I began to commit my spare time to writing. I wrote uncredited articles, one published piece for a magazine, and penned my first novel. I found that writing brought me joy. I loved having the ability to put pen to paper and deliver a message that others could read, relate to, and have it impact their life. I believe it is the gift God has given me, and the path He has laid for me. So, I prayed for the opportunity to make it a permanent part of my life by doing it full time.
Joyful Life Circumstance Lesson #3: God does not always answer prayer the way that we expect him to.
Fast forward to July 2017; I rolled my ankle in a pothole stepping out of my truck. That injury put me out of work for six months. I used the time to write. I expanded my experience and edited the novel I had written. I also wrote a children’s book during this time for my daughter. I was in physical pain, but joyful because I was doing what I loved, temporarily full-time. After returning to work, I continued to pray for the opportunity to write full time, still using any and every down moment to put words down.
When November of 2018 rolled around, and I began having the seizures that literally took my license from me, I dove right back into writing. Over the next six months I continued to hone my craft, and the fee I could charge clients escalated. In fact, one of my clients heard that I had written a children’s book and wanted to see it. He liked it and wanted to publish it. Today, that one-time event has evolved into a five-book series. Then at a book release event, I met another author. She heard about my written novel and gave me info on her publisher. I submitted the manuscript, and he wanted to print my novel. In August of 2019, The Five Barred Gate was published.
God answered my prayer of writing full time through an unexpected illness, not what I expected, but just as He had planned.
Life Circumstance Lesson #4: God Always Has a Plan.
While I still every so often experience a medical episode, I am finding joy in that God has answered my prayer to write full time. Today, I am a professional Freelance Writer, not to mention a published Author. I am also currently in the process of writing my second novel.
The bills? Well, there is still a stack of them, but they are growing shorter, and even though we are still playing catch up with the landlord, I have peace that God will work it all out. And when you have peace, joy soon follows. Why? Because when you know that God is the provider, there is no room for worry.
Our pastor spoke this last Sunday on Psalm 24:1. The verse speaks of everything and everyone belonging to the Lord; He is the owner of it all. We are just stewards of what He has given us. When we manage the ‘stuff’ we have been given, we can experience true joy.
My joy does not depend on living in ideal circumstances. Joy goes beyond what is going on now. I am struggling medically. The doctors have yet to determine what is causing the seizures. But I have joy in that I know God is the owner of my health. Our financial situation is not the best; the life of a Freelancer is generally feast or famine. Some weeks there is not enough time to complete it all, and others I struggle to find even one job. But I have joy in knowing that God is the owner of my talent and profession. He provides what is needed today, and I do not have to worry about tomorrow.
The Final Word
I am far from perfect when it comes to ‘rejoicing always.’ Satan still finds ways to creep up and try and knock me off my feet, and I will be honest, sometimes he hits me hard enough to make me fall to my knees, but really, isn’t the place I need to be?
Through it all, again, like Paul, I have learned that I am to be content and joyful in all circumstances. He goes on to tell the church of Philippi, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13. There is that word again, ‘all.’ All things, all circumstances. Herein lies the secret to living a life of joy.
It is not in living a worry-free life. It is not doing the thing that you love doing. It is not even in living out the call God has on your life. The secret of living a joyful life is knowing that God is in control; He is the owner of it all. When we give him all of it, through His strength we can experience the joyful life He has for each of us.