The chaos carries itself throughout the room, giggles and laughter reverberating off of the walls. Five cousins ages four and under reunited for a week of fun, games, treats, together, and memories. Their excitement is contagious. And loud.
And yet over the commotion I hear my grandfather’s voice, proud and glad. “Look what we started.” He says to his wife. His smile speaks of generations, four of them in this room, and I can only imagine what they’ve witnessed throughout those years.
We have much to be thankful for this season.
And yet–thankful can be a tricky thing to chase down.
But something holy transpires within us when we turn from thinking of thanksgiving as a response, and instead see it as command. Something we were created for, and called to. Kind of like prayer.
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This puzzling command that begs the question, how are we always to be bowed in prayer?
A habit of prayer is a noble thing; an instinctual reaction to take all that is on our hearts and lay it at the feet of Jesus. But habit can also become tainted by monotony and thoughtlessness. A habit of prayer can so easily cross the line into a list of worries, or a game of bargaining, or a constant reminder to ourselves of our own dissatisfaction.
Yet this command–Pray without ceasing–it is bookended by instruction. Its prelude and epilogue paint for us a complete picture, and it is a portrait of grace.
Before it, Rejoice always.
And after, Give thanks in all circumstances.
This is the pulse of Pray Always.
Only then, when fear overwhelms, can we give thanks to the One who steadies our soul.
And when our need seems so great and we cannot foresee provision, we thank Him for today’s bread. For manna in the wilderness. For clothing the grass of the field, and feeding the birds of the air. For meeting our need yesterday, and the day before that, and waiting for us in our every tomorrow.
When uncertainty clouds our way, and our first thought is to ask for direction, let us push it aside, just for a moment, and first rejoice. Giving thanks to the One who levels the ground before us and establishes our steps.
When war and terror flood the headlines, let our first response be that of thanksgiving to the One who, “keeps him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) May our instinct be to praise Him for, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear, what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)
Let fear always give way to praise, because we have not one thing to fear.
This season was made for thanks, and we have our work cut out for us. In a world filled with threats against our peace, may we be ever diligent and intentional to give thanks always. Before and after. Through and through.
When around every turn we encounter circumstances bent on derailing our thanks and unsettling our spirit, let us be the first to exclaim, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7)
After all, how can we not resound with thanksgiving to the One who, “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
O soul, in every circumstance, your excuses are found wanting. Empty. Insufficient to stand against all of His bountiful dealings. So take heart. Give praise. Say thanks. Because you have no excuse not to.