Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)
This is one of those really challenging verses because Paul doesn’t leave room for any exclusions. We are to praise God in all circumstances. There have been many situations in my life that were difficult to be thankful for. Sometimes in retrospect I have become thankful, but at the time it was hard to be grateful for the trial I was enduring. I also have ongoing situations that I deal with on a regular basis. I’m sure you can relate.
I have several health issues that I struggle with on a daily basis. But this one came as a complete surprise. I vividly remember driving to my appointment before my Lasik surgery and telling God that I trusted him with the results of my surgery. I said that I would praise him no matter what the outcome. I knew there could be some risks, but I really didn’t think anything would go wrong. I didn’t know anyone who had problems after having Lasik surgery. At the time, it was an easy prayer.
The morning after my surgery I got in the shower and I couldn’t read my shampoo bottle any longer. I noticed I couldn’t read my lotion bottle or soap dispenser on the countertop either. My cell phone was blurry. I freak out just a little. I didn’t understand what had happened. At my follow up appointment the next day I was told my blurry would all go away with time.
Then one evening after work, I was stopped at a traffic light and I realized that I saw two red lights stacked on top of each other. While driving home I saw four headlights coming at me instead of two. I was seeing double! No wonder my vision wasn’t clear. I was surprised and worried with that discovery.
At my next appointment, I complained to the eye doctor that I was having double vision. I described to him the experience of seeing headlights one on top of the other. He seemed very puzzled. He tested to see of maybe it was my eye muscles, but they were fine. Again, I was told it would go away with time. Yet it didn’t.
After consulting with 3 different eye specialists, the last one was finally able to explain the puzzle of my double vision. He told me that at the time of my surgery my lenses had already become partially rigid. When the Lasik surgery changed my vision from nearsightedness to farsightedness, my lenses couldn’t adjust properly between the two extremes. When I read anything up close for very long and then try to focus on something far away, I experience double vision.
Here is the rub; I promised God I would praise him no matter what the outcome! It is very annoying to have blurry vision most of the time. Even while writing this blog, my vision has become very blurry. I do a lot of squinting. But when I start to complain, God reminds me of my promise.
So how can I thank God despite my irritating circumstance? I start by remembering that my vision won’t always be this blurry; someday my vision will be perfect. I remember that God is sovereign and he must have a purpose for my double vision. Is it possible he wants to teach me to be content in all circumstances?
My health issues also remind me that I am frail physically, mentally, and spiritually. I must stay dependent on God at all times. I can’t even keep a grateful heart in my own strength. The Holy Spirit has to remind me of my promise and then help me focus on the truth. I am not always successful, but I’m getting better. It is an area that he is definitely working on in my life right now.
Plus, when I focus on all that Christ has done for me on the cross and what I can look forward to, my circumstances begin to pale in comparison. I can never forget the gospel and the grace extended to me daily. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can redirect my thoughts to reasons for thankfulness rather than complaints. Once again, the gospel because my remedy for a complaining heart.
When circumstances don’t go the way you want them to, can you still thank God? Paul says this is God’s will for us. What can you focus on to inspire a heart of thankfulness and praise to God instead of grumbling and complaining about your circumstances?