Thankful in All Things

Well, October is now over, the year is quickly coming to an end, and the Christmas creep is in full effect. November has come, it’s a great season to reflect on what we have been given, I’m sure you’ve already begun to see the Facebook countdowns of what people are thankful for (not knocking on that, just think it’s funny how we all know what I’m talking about). We reflect on the year that has happened and what is to come, but what happens when we’ve had a tough year, or even a tough life? For me the past year has been absolutely crazy, yet all throughout the hard times God has never given up on me, and I haven’t given up on him. I have watched the hardship of addiction, seen two people I called brothers pass away, and watched my family experience loss. I wish this post was about how life gets easier or how things don’t hurt, but that simply how it works. One thing through all of this past year, and even throughout all that I have been through in life, there is hope because Christ never fails us.

It’s true that I, and you, have experienced hardship. That’s the dark side of life, but be careful not to focus on that. Focus on what God has done. Look at what Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Or in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s pretty serious, in everything, good and bad, give thanks. This isn’t easy, but that isn’t what God is saying, he is saying that when we rejoice in the hardship, we grow in wisdom and find peace. I say this because over the past year I have experienced hardship, but this has been one of the greatest years for me. As I typed that sentence it wasn’t easy, if I could change time I would, but I would never have experienced all the good. Today I want to share with you the way I have grown so that in whatever situation you are in, you can learn to give thanks and find true joy.

Perseverance produces character.

When I look at the lives of the great leaders in the bible, it astonishes me how many of them were just like us. They weren’t gods among men, they were human, each with their own struggles and heartaches. Noah was given a mission and berated every day for what he knew was right. Elijah struggled with depression, even when he had a strong gift of prophecy. Jesus suffered rejection and people spitting on him as he faced his death. There are hundreds in the bible, story after story of men and women who struggled, but God blessed them. Each of them made an impact on the world, they each had character. They were wise and they used this to help others. When we stand in Christ through our struggles, we can make the same impact. The reason I want to be a next generation pastor is to help kids like me to know that they are special, and that no matter what has happened, they can impact the world. So often I think we, meaning everyone, are told that we aren’t good enough or that we will never do something important. I don’t believe that. I never have. Call me crazy but I believe that God wants to use each and every person, whether you’re thirteen or eighty-three, God has a purpose for you. All we need to do is persevere through the storms, and focus on Christ.

You have a story.

Each one of us is unique, no two people are alike. No matter if you have a twin or are from quintuplets, you are an individual. If you want to understand this concept, at some point right now or later on, look around in a crowded place and think about each person. Each face, every little detail, every person you see has a story. It really puts you into perspective, and the cool thing is, our stories can encourage others. One of my favorite things about leading a small group is seeing each person share and help each other, and I don’t even have to say a word! Not because I’m lazy, but I don’t have to say anything because we all can build each other up. This is the whole point of the church, to stand together and grow together, laugh together, and even cry together. I say all this to encourage you that you are not alone in your struggle, and God doesn’t want you to go it alone (I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago that explains more of this idea), and the second is that your story will help others around you. Use your story to encourage someone.

Hardship gives vision.

All throughout history, great leaders see a problem or experience persecution and decide to make a change. There is nothing stopping you from doing the same. While this year has been hard, I have chosen to look at the good from it, because I know good comes from all things. Instead of thinking about what could have been, I try to make an impact today. I have grown with my family, and my spiritual family has grown even bigger. I have learned to value the small things. I chose to start a blog and developed a passion and a vision to become a writer. I have seen so much good, and I wouldn’t give any of it up, the godly friends, the incredible dreams, the beautiful girl, and the powerful relationship with Christ. It may seem bleak for you in this moment, and I know it’s hard when you can’t sleep, but choose to be thankful. God will use your hardship to give you a vision, a vision is simply anticipating something that is to come. So anticipate the power that will come from a passionate love and pursuit of God, then you will leave a legacy unlike anything else.

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I hope this helps you. I know what you’re going through, and I know it hurts. Trust me when I tell you that there is so much more for you, you have dreams and aspirations, and these were given to you by an all-powerful creator. You are human, but more importantly you are a child of God. There is a quote from Doctor Who that I always think of when dealing with people who are struggling and it helps me. The Doctor says, “nine hundred years of time and space, and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.” You are important. We may not be world famous or be rich, but we all make wide ripples to everyone around us. So this month, think about all the things you have been given, cherish the memories of the people you have lost, and go forward to make even more. When we begin to change our perspective on the hard times, we find joy in the darkest of times. God made you, he made all the miniscule details about you, and he wants to do something in you and through you. You are a child of God, you are important, and you can change the world. Choose to be thankful in all things, and you will find true joy.

Change the world.

-Joshua Thomas   

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Peace in the Chaos

Life is all over the place. One moment we can be swamped with trouble and doubt, and the next, feeling like you need more action in your life. Stress is the infection that everyone feels at some time or another. It consumes our thoughts and distracts us from the joys in our life. Today I want to share a little thought that has been running through my mind of this idea of stress and the times when we feel chaos all around us. It’s something that I deal with on a daily basis, my brain constantly thinking about the next thing I have to do, or reflecting on some issue that is so small in the grand scheme. Since I know my brain works like this, the chances are very high that yours does as well. I want to do a few things today, I want you to know that you don’t have to worry about your problems, I want you to know that you have the ability to be peaceful in stress, and I want you to discover how to find joy each day.

Philippians 4:6-9 is my lifeline when it comes to life berating me with all its’ got. It says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” This verse holds the key to overcoming the chaos in your life.

God is bigger than your problems.

If there is one thing I can tell you from experience and know for a fact, it’s that when I try to solve every problem in my life, I fail. God is all powerful and all knowing, so why would I even try to do things by myself? Seems silly for me to try and do that right, but we all do this. Most of us several times during our day. God wants us to come to him with everything, all our problems and struggles, even our happy memories in life. He loves us and is willing to help us in everything we do. We just need to take the first step, we need to start the conversation. Realize that God can do all things, and that he loves you. Put the two together and he will guide you in the chaos.

Dwell on the blessings.

The middle part of the verse tells us to think about things that are life-giving, this is the key to having peace. I rarely think about the possibility of a silver lining when faced with a problem. My mind thinks about every horrible outcome that could possibly come from it, rather than seeing how that situation might be a learning opportunity, or an opportunity to show Christ to another person. When we redirect our focus on the positives in whatever situation we are in, we begin to look at the world the way Christ wants us to. Will we still have disappointment and experience hurt? Sadly, yes, but there is always hope. That whole part about God being bigger than your problems stays true all throughout your life, but again, we have to take hold of it. Remember the things that God has already done in your life and focus on how he will use every situation you are in, even when you are in darkness.

Choose joy.

The final sentiment of the verse shows us that when we think about Christ’s teaching and the blessings he has shown us, we have to choose to put it into practice. So often we want to abide in our misery while surrounding ourselves with others in the same position. Stop that! Stand up for what you know is true, and that truth is that God has given us so much to enjoy! We have to actively choose to be joyful, it is an action that must be done in all situations. When we actively choose joy, we find peace in our chaos.

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When writing this, my thoughts were drawn to the painter Jackson Pollock. He is the man who is known for his modern art that is splatter painted. He encompasses this thought, because in his work it always seems to be chaotic, yet he understands that he has created something beautiful. Now we aren’t here to discuss art, I love this theme that runs through many modern artists. Beauty in the abstract, they find peace in the chaos. So, no matter where you are in life or what circumstance you are going through, remember that the ultimate creator of life is making a masterpiece out of you. Step into your life, and choose joy when life gets tough.

I hope you enjoyed todays post, I am so thankful for the response that I have been getting. Thanks for reading! Feel free to check out other posts and share some that you have enjoyed. You all rock.

-Joshua Thomas