Friday, November 27, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Giving Thanks to God in All Circumstances

Giving Thanks for Trouble

A devotional by Amy Odland

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:10 (NIV)

As I sat at the computer reading and researching about COVID-19 back in the beginning of March, I knew this year was going to be hard, but like many of you probably, I never could’ve imagined all the battles we have faced since then.

Shortages of supplies we used to take for granted, misinformation about COVID-19 and an election, racial injustices, political unrest, family and friends quarreling, and so many deaths – deaths experienced in isolation because we can’t mourn gathered together like we usually get to – are all things we’ve been battling on top of just trying to do daily life. We may be arguing about a lot of things right now, but one thing we can all agree on is the fact we are having quite a bit of trouble in the US right now.

Job, a man of integrity who served God faithfully, knew trouble as well. He lost seven sons, three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and several servants all in one day. Shortly after, he developed painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then he had three friends show up who tried to comfort him by telling him it was all his fault, that he or his kids or ancestors must have messed up bad. There’s a whole book of the Bible telling his story aptly named “Job.”

After going back and forth with his “miserable comforters” and arguing his innocence, Job finally got to the point where he demanded from God a reason for his suffering. God answered and Job was humbled and realized he didn’t know everything. It is interesting to point out that like Job, most of us don’t question our faith when things are hunky-dory. We start asking the big questions when things are hard.

Jesus Christ warned us that things would be hard, even after saying his yoke was easy and burden was light (Matthew 11:30 NIV). Following Him wasn’t going to be the Disney Fast Pass religious equivalent for helping us skate through life. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). The “things” He’d told His disciples right before saying this included why He had to leave, how the Holy Spirit would be coming to help them, and that they’d mostly likely be killed by those believing they were serving God – not exactly comforting thoughts.

Not comforting, that is, until we get to the last thing he says in that verse and also if we were to continue reading in John 17—He has overcome the world. He has overcome everything … loneliness, anxiety, depression, abuse, cancer, persecution, quarreling, war, ignorance, stubbornness, doubt, and death via his dying on the cross and raising again three days later.

Like Job, we can have doubt creep in during our difficult times, doubt that causes us to question God with endless why’s. Commentaries say that Job’s faith was stronger after his tribulation but does that mean our trials and struggles are purposed to test our faith, to make it, and us, stronger? Or are they for bringing us to God because we have been resisting Him despite all the signs of His existence all around us? Maybe it is sometimes for both but either way, Jesus says He has overcome all the horrible things we will experience.

While we may not know the “why” behind the current turmoil created by COVID-19 in 2020, we can listen to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NIV):

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt 
but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. 
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. 
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our 
Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Paul had been through boat wrecks, arrests, beatings, and hosts of other physical and mental trials during his ministry, yet he says to give thanks in all circumstances. He had experienced far worse than struggling to find toilet paper or wearing a mask or waiting 17 weeks for a specific part for a broken dishwasher to finally be in stock so it can be repaired. If he could say to give thanks in everything by that point in his life, we should listen carefully to his words.

Many of us have seen hardships this year far more serious than what we used to think were hardships, yet Job could still probably one-up us with his personal story of “This one time...”

Despite his suffering, Job was kept blameless because he was obedient. Giving thanks for the hardships is our act of obedience that also strengthens or renews our faith and keeps us blameless until the coming of our Lord. The one who calls you is faithful to keep you blameless and He will do it if you continue to hold on to what is good and give thanks in all circumstances.

Let’s Pray: Lord, thank you for your faithfulness to all generations. Thank you for remaining the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow no matter what is happening in the world. Help me with my doubt. Give me strength to continue believing You and Your promises. Help me give thanks for all things, even the bad, as they are things You can rework to bring about a good I don’t understand right now. Guide me and give me wisdom in all things so I may remain blameless until the time of Your return and thank you for making me blameless despite my sins and shortcomings. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:

Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles. 

Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994.

Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick, and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.

In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.

She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.

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