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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

     A few months ago, I began to pray for joy. I witnessed a contagious joyfulness in the lives of other Christians I looked up to, but when I looked internally to my own heart, I did not find the same joy. At that point, I realized that my heart had come to rest in the routine of religion but not the splendor of Christ. And, with this realization, I began a simple intention every morning: repeating “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” until I believed it for myself for the day (Psalm 118:24). Some days, I repeated it more than five times; other days, only once. This was the only work I did, nothing special or great on my part; what I love getting to share in this blog is what God has done and what He taught me in the process.
     When I began thinking about what I would share in this blog, I was closing up a month of thankful thoughts on my yoga instagram page (@cambriyoga, my apologies for the plug). With Thanksgiving holiday and wrapping up a month of walking intentionally in gratitude, the idea of thankfulness and joy swirled around in my head, joy as a banner over the last months of my life and thankfulness as the focus of this November. What I didn’t realize in the rebirth of joy in my life was how it coincided with my endeavor to start my prayer journal every morning with praises to God before any request or concern lifted. These praises are often the littlest things like a warm cup of coffee and the quiet before the day starts. Yet they were and are still praises, with them, I hope to reflect in exaltation upon what He already has provided before coming to Him with what I hope He will provide. What started as a simple habit in my prayer journaling was a vessel for something God has done and revealed in my life that I am still unfolding: His will for my days. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 boldly yet simply states three things that make up God’s will for us: “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” If you have ever wondered like me what God’s will is for you, it’s those three things. There is no reason for us to complicate it; in doing so, we would only deceive ourselves. What a beautiful Lord that He tells us His will for our lives so clearly. As for the three aspects, joy, prayer, and thankfulness are inseparable, a package, equal parts to the whole of God’s will for our lives. For the longest time, I gave thanks out of obligation. However, God has proved to me in the past months that what I believed to be a coincidence in beginning my prayers with praise and starting my days with the intention of rejoicing was truly His work in my life. His work was teaching me that JOY and THANKFULNESS are dependent upon each other. They go hand-in-hand because they are equal parts God’s will for our lives. Not only are they inseparable, but they are also intricately tied into prayer, the third pillar of His will. The longer I walk alongside Christ, the more I feel compelled by His joy. His abundant, beautiful, life-giving, make-you-throw-your-hands-up, crazy, chasing JOY. Yet equally the longer I walk into life and get older, the more I become painfully aware of the despair of this world. It’s broken, and in its broken nature, we are tempted to become burdened by all of the heaviness. That heaviness hits me like a thousand bricks some mornings. I have always considered myself a happy person, but for some reason, I wake up some days with a cloudy heaviness and sadness. The weight of the day hangs above me before my feet even hit the ground, but in this, I have learned a little something about joy. While Jesus gives it abundantly, it is also our choice to grasp it. In a world as heavy as ours, we have to cling to joy. God’s will, His command for us is to always rejoice, not just on the days that we wake up excited but especially on the days that heaviness hits us. We can only fulfill God’s will when we believe joy for our days and trust in the Lord as the Provider of all Joy in His great abundance and provision.
     Furthermore, we can only fulfill God’s will for our lives when we step into thankfulness in every situation too. 2020 has been quite the year. At this point, I feel like it is a running joke, but at the same time, it has been a year of hurt and loss for a lot of people. It has also been a year of renewed relationships, lost relationships, lots of time, lost time, new passions, devastated paths, and every other duality that characterizes the human experience. In the midst of turmoil, I have found that giving thanks for the little, immediate things invited a Jesus kind of joy that is inconceivable when we get lost in the daunting giants of issues. In fact, I believe that joy is often the result of our thanksgiving. There is a reason God includes both the command to rejoice and the command to give thanks as equal parts of His will. God does not need our joy or praise. He is complete in Himself, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the great “I am.” However, His will for us to step into joy, prayer, and praise is because He wants us to experience fullness of life in Him. He wants us, wills us to do these things because they draw our hearts closer to His and, in the process, gives us an abundance of life we would have never known otherwise. Therefore, if you cannot give thanks for the big things today that seem to be crumbling down, even though I encourage you to praise God for these too, try giving thanks right now for a little joy, a little part of your life that is good. If it seems impossible to give thanks for the present and its chaos, try giving praise to God for the future, knowing He will be faithful to bring to fruition His plans that work to His glory and our good. Whether big or small, seemingly superficial or vulnerable, give praise to Him. He is listening to you.
     The last part of His will for our lives is that we would pray continually. This seems daunting, a constant state of prayer. I do not do this perfectly by any means, but as I pray for God to put prayer at the forefront of my life, He has invited me into conversations and little moments and everything in between that I would have missed if I didn’t commit to praying. I still ask for His Hand to cover my heart in prayer, and today, I ask Him to cover all of our hearts in what He is teaching us. I pray He would bring new revelations to our hearts and reveal new truths to us in His word. I pray He would give us the strength and wisdom to live out His will boldly, courageously: rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. I pray for His joy to captivate and cover our hearts amidst the darkness and heaviness of a broken world. I pray over each of you reading this, that you would hear His goodness over anything I have to offer. Praise! Jesus! 
    Also, if you got through reading this, please go listen to “When I Lock Eyes with You” by Upperroom and Maverick City. It will have you praising, I promise. 
With love,
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