Thinking personally about giving thanks in the good times and the hard times has been difficult for me this morning. Are you attempting to do this? Remember, the peace of Christ is available to you as you practice giving thanks even in the difficult times. I have tons and tons of things to give thanks for... that part isn't so difficult. But I think of our church family and the difficult circumstances in some folks' lives, and I grieve for and pray for each one in their struggles. The people I love dearly are going through some tough times -- including my personal family in Pennsylvania. And I'm to give thanks for this in order to find the peace of Christ in it all? Yes. And it is remarkable to me that how so many are turning in their struggle to apply their faith in very real ways. Almost everyone I know is drawing closer to God in their distress. You know, that's something a Pastor can give thanks for! Peoples' faith in the Lord is being proven, promoted, and even purified. And as I look over my list of prayer requests from the past 6 months, I see many prayers answered. Not necessarily in the ways I prayed, but in the ways God knew best. I can be thankful that God's wisdom is far above mine. And there's great peace in knowing God has heard my prayers and is involved in our lives. Some prayers I've been praying for 15 years and I don't see them being answered in the way I want. Yet, I see God supplying the daily need and enabling people to keep taking one step at a time... and finding ways to enjoy the beautiful moments in life despite pain and difficulty. I can surely give thanks in that... and in that thanksgiving, God gives me some peace. Peace about the people I love... peace that He IS in charge and I don't have to fix everything... peace in knowing that God (if I am submitted to Him) is steering the course of my life.
Know that God loves you. That's the bedrock of peace. He's not against you. He's not trying to make your life more difficult. He loves you.
Know that God is for you. He sees, He's at work, and He's pulling for you. If God is for you, who can be against you?? There's more peace.
Know that God hears your prayers and coordinates events with your best interest in mind for a very abundant life. Find great peace in that, too.
Finally, know that this life is temporary and Jesus has gone to prepare a much better place for all of us to inhabit for all the days of eternity. And when you come before Jesus with sincerity in prayer, acknowledge his sacrifice and love, acknowledge your sin and seek repentance, and receive by faith the grace and forgiveness made available to you through the blood of Jesus... well... there's more long- term peace found in that assurance than in anything else.
Peace is available when you choose to give thanks. You give thanks by focusing on the things that are "thanks-worthy," even in spite of difficulty and struggle. We are blessed in a million ways. If you don't think so, just take a serious look around you with an objective eye. When you realize what's right in front of you... all that you have... all the people you love and hold dear... all of your hope... you can surely give thanks. And find peace.
You are loved... live like it.