“Give Thanks In All Circumstances”

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

There is a clear switch from October 31st to November 1st: Halloween season to Thanksgiving season. We flip from saying “trick or treat” to telling all of our Facebook friends what we are thankful for as Thanksgiving approaches.

I know for me personally, I am guilty of only focusing on the things I am thankful for during the month of November, but God calls us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. With that, I struggle with the concept of giving thanks in ALL circumstances. It is easy to thank God during the times that life is great, but what about during the hard times? How am I supposed to thank God when all I want to do is curl up in my bed in cry?

One thing that I have learned over the years is that the only way to make it through hard times is to find the good in every single situation. Even during the stormy seasons of life, there are lessons to be learned, people to meet and ways to grow spiritually. God does not do anything without a purpose, so it is up to us to take responsibility in finding things to give thanks for, even when it requires some deep thinking.

In order to “give thanks in all circumstances,” I think it is also important to focus on the first two calls of action in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

First, it says to “be joyful always.” As followers of Christ, we know that joy only comes from one place: the Lord. In order to be joyful, we have to have a relationship with our Lord and Savior. When you have that relationship with the Lord, I still think that as followers of Christ we have to consciously make a decision every day to choose joy.

Next, it says to “pray continually.” How do you keep healthy relationships with your friends, family, or your significant other? You talk to them. You cannot expect to have a healthy relationship with God if you do not make an effort to talk to him daily through prayer. God wants to have a relationship with you where you can talk to him about your day, the things that are going well for you and the things that are not going well in your life. He cares about you and every single thing that happens in your life. God even cares about the little things that you think do not matter. He sincerely cares and wants you to talk to him about everything.

When you put the first two calls to action of this verse to work in your life “be joyful always” and “pray continually,” then I promise it will make it easier for you to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

For me, “giv(ing) thanks in all circumstances,” is split into two parts at the moment: things that are making me happy and things that are stressing me out.

I am thankful for many things, but specifically this month the happy things that I am thankful for include: that I got to spend this weekend with my Nana, that my parents are coming up for the OU vs. TCU football game next weekend, that my best friend and I just signed a lease for our apartment for next year and that I get to go home and see my family for Thanksgiving.

Even though I am super stressed out at the moment, I am thankful that my classes are challenging and teaching me more than I could ever imagine, that the storms of life are making me stronger, and that God continues to push me to become a better version of myself.

So in the midst of stress and struggling to end the year with good grades, I am going to do my best to “give thanks in all circumstances” because that is God’s will.

Tis The Season of Stress

15056381_1445567062120889_5386928071452584417_nIt is finally fall in Oklahoma. The temperature is starting to drop, the leaves are changing colors and falling from the tress and Starbucks’ holiday cups are officially back. I am not the biggest fan of cold weather, but I absolutely love fall mainly because that means it is time to go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas is right around the corner.

Fall also means that it is crunch time for college students. Dead week and finals week is approaching faster than we expected, projects and papers are piling up and stress is at an all time high right now. It is our last chance to attempt to bring our grades up to where we would like them to be (even though the pessimist in me knows that it will not happen in my case). The stress will not subside until we are on our way back to our hometown after our last final, only to return when we come back in January.

Stress is incredibly hard to deal with. It makes a lot of people cranky, physically and mentally exhausted and it can even plant doubts in our head. For me personally, when I am stressed I start to question everything. I question my self-worth and my ability. I question my purpose. I question if I am on the right path. Then, all of the questioning makes me stress out even more. It is a vicious never-ending cycle.

Today I decided to sit outside of the Oklahoma Memorial Union at the University of Oklahoma to work on homework and study.  Then I just stopped. I stopped to look around me and just put life on pause. I looked around to see my beautiful campus and the signs of fall around me. It was an incredibly beautiful day: not too hot, and not too cold. The lovely colored leaves were falling onto the table where I sat.  I took it all in for a moment.

In this moment, I realized that stressing out over all the things I have on my plate right now was silly. I know that it will all get done and come together as long as I keep working hard. This is my second year of college, I know that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything. Even though my studies are super important to me, I realized that my grades and my degree do not define me. What defines me? My love for Jesus Christ and my dedication to glorify Him in everything from my words to my actions.

I also realized that there was no point to allow my stress to consume me and make me question myself. All of that doubt that was placed in my mind came straight from satan trying to discourage me, but you know what? Satan is defeated by God. The devil holds no power over me because God always wins. I know that my worth comes from God, so I am worthy. I am able to do anything with God on my side. I know that God has a purpose for my life. I know that no matter what path of life I am on, God already knows the outcome, yet He still walks right beside me as I go down any road.

I love the little reminders of how incredible God is whether it be simple or complex.

It is hard not to be completely in awe of God when I simply walk outside and see his masterpiece. It is hard not to realize your worth when you think about the fact that the same God who created this universe, created you and me. He could make anything He wanted, and He decided to create each of us unique and special in our own way.

It is easy to get wrapped up in what the world has to say about who you are and what you should be doing, but just remember where your worth comes from. It comes from your Heavenly Father who loves you more than you even know.

So if you need a reminder of your worth and value today, just walk outside and realize that God created everything around you and YOU. It is the perfect reminder of His perfect love and mighty power. If that does not make you feel special, then I do not know what will.

With all that being said, the next time you are overcome with stress, just pause for a minute and realize who you are and whose you are. You are a son or daughter of God. You are His child. You were made perfectly and uniquely in His image.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, and I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14-15