“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ”Phil 4:6
Worrying ensnares us and steals our sense of contentment and peace and can even rob us of our health. To quote John Calvin concerning those who live with anxiety, they “wear themselves out and become their own executioners.” So what is the key to living without this type of anxiety?
The key is understanding that although we live in a fallen world where there is pain, sickness and sin, God can and many times does intervene; but if He does not, then there is purpose in it. God is sovereign in every situation.
In addition to knowing God’s sovereignty, we need to know He loves us. Sovereignty without love could be scarry indeed. But we know God’s love. His love has been proven in Jesus Christ. Should we as Christians be experiencing challenging or even painful circumstances, God promises us that there is purpose in it. We see this truth in Romans 8:28, 29. God promises to work every event in our lives for good according to His purpose. And what is that purpose? We do only see in part, however, verse29 of Romans 8 confirms His main purpose in our lives is to transform His adopted children into the image of His Son. He desires us to develop Christlike character and we truly are refined through our sufferings.
Look at Christ as He stood before Pilate and facing death He said to him, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above…” Although His followers could see no purpose in the suffering and death that Jesus was to withstand, Jesus knew that God the Father had purpose in it. The same is true of any situation we find ourselves in. If there is not a purpose in it, God will intervene into the situation and spare us. Understanding this truth has made a significant difference in my life. Jesus was made perfect at the cross.
I do want to clarify what it is we are thankful for. It is not that we are thankful for the suffering. Christ was not thankful for the suffering He had to undergo. In fact, He pleaded in the Garden of Eden that it be removed. However, He concluded speaking to God the Father, “not my will but yours be done”. What He was thankful for was knowing that there was a purpose in it and that the result would produce eternal fruit. It was because He focused on that eternal fruit that He was able to endure the cross.
We also see this truth at work in Paul’s life. Paul spoke of a thorn in his flesh.
He lifted His hands to God with thanksgiving and made His request for the thorn to be removed but yet if it were not , He was still thankful for the grace of God …the power of God…that dwelt within Him to enable Him to persevere. (Phil 4:11-13). He could lift His hands to God with an attitude of thanksgiving for God’s purpose to be fulfilled.
Paul said, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21) while maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving while suffering beatings and imprisonment. Although He looked forward to being with Christ and free of this world, He lived to fulfill God’s purpose not only for His life but the lives of others around him. He learned to be content no matter the circumstance he found himself by drawing on the very strength of Christ who dwelt within. He focused on Christ and that He had a purpose in everything. He focused on the truth that God is in control. He focused on heaven knowing that this is not His eternal home but that this will end and the glory that awaited him was not worthy to be compared to the suffering of this life.
If we had a life free of pain and suffering and sin, we would be experiencing heaven. We will not experience heaven until we meet Christ face to face on that glorious day. Meanwhile 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 tells us to be thankful in all things. We can be thankful in the midst of all things, the good and the not so good, because we know the One who is in Charge, we know He loves us and we know that for those who belong to Christ there is a purpose for our lives. We can be thankful because as His children, our present suffering will produce eternal rewards for all eternity.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”