“Rejoice 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 are 3 brief but powerful commands in this short passage of scripture:
- rejoice (when? Always)
- pray (when? Continually)
- give thanks (when? In all circumstances)
I believe that these 3 commands are the keys to happiness.
What does it mean to rejoice?
It means to be cheerful or glad; to exult in something. We can rejoice in the Lord, in his presence with us, in his victory over evil, in our heavenly reward awaiting us, in the faith of others, etc. We are commanded to rejoice always, and we can do that, because regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, God doesn’t change. He is still loving, still forgiving, still powerful, still our Father. No one can steal our hope or our salvation from us. We are accepted in the beloved. We can rejoice always! We can choose to be glad/happy at all times because we have something to be happy about!!
But even as we have a heart attitude of rejoicing in the Lord, we live in a broken world. We suffer, and so do others. People lose their jobs; children rebel; spouses are unfaithful; unkind words are spoken. This is where the second command comes in: pray continually. Prayer is God’s provision for us to take our hurts and fears to the Lord and leave them in his loving hands. As we do that, our perspective changes from our pain to the Lord’s compassion. He’s the only one who can fix the mess that we find ourselves in. He’s the only one that can change the human heart. As we pray about everything, we are able to release those burdens to the Lord and experience rest and contentment in our souls.
The third command is the last, but not least. Why does the Lord command us to give thanks in all circumstances? Proverbs 15:15 says “All the days of the oppressed are miserable, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” He wants us to be happy! He wants us bless us with an abundant life! But we need to have an attitude of gratitude in order to experience that happiness. If we have a victim mentality, a poor-little-me attitude, we’re going to be miserable. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have; what we want and are not getting at this moment; what our children are doing that is displeasing to us. But if we cultivate the habit of thanking the Lord for what we do have, and what he has already blessed us with, we are going to have a continual feast! Notice that the verse says to give thanks *in* all circumstances, not *for* all circumstances. If you’re going through a difficult trial, you may not be able to thank him for that trial, but there are still many blessings that you can thank him for in that trial!
Are you unhappy? Then ask the Lord to give you the grace to cultivate these disciplines of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks. But be patient; it’s definitely not an overnight process! As you practice these three keys to happiness, slowly but surely you will see your happiness quotient escalate!