Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
These words from God—penned by His servant Paul in a letter to the church in Thessalonica—are His instructions to us during good times and bad. Most of us might feel it easy to be joyful, pray continually and give thanks when everything is going our way. But when trouble hits, it’s an entirely different story.
We like comfort. We want things to be right. We don’t like misfortune and are impatient to get back to the good life we normally enjoy. God knows this about us and so He gives the above instruction in First Thessalonians chapter 5. Regardless of what comes more naturally to us, God wants us not only to be joyful in bad times but to draw near to Him and to give thanks to Him in the midst of our undesirable circumstances.
Please notice that God is not saying we must be thankful for the circumstances; just that we remain thankful during such times. No matter the situation, we are always fortunate to belong to a God who is near, who loves us no matter what, and who will work through the situation to bring about good to those who love Him.
Sometimes, when we are experiencing the worst of times, it may seem impossible for us to experience joy, much less to express the gratitude of any kind to Him in prayer. Maybe the best we can do at those times is to confess our lack of joy to Him, rely on His strength and let Him empower our ability to feel joy. In Galatians 5:22 we are told that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As believers, we have joy. By drawing near to Him, we can activate that joy in the worst of circumstances.