It seems the sorrows of this world are never ending. Last week, I learned of the passing of a friend’s 21 year-old son. I cannot imagine the gut wrenching hurt this friend is going through.

I don’t have words to say.

It is unfair.

It is life altering.

It is tragic.

And yet, this is not an isolated incident. Right? Tragedies and death are all around us. I recently, and reluctantly, picked up 2 books on Isis, Killing Christians by Tom Doyle and Rise of Isis by Jay Sekulow.  If you want to know about suffering, if you want to know about tragedy and horror, read about Isis.

It is horrifying, terrifying, and unbelievable.

No one should be treated the way they treat people. No one.

I actually think it is so horrifying, that we all avoid talking about it.

Isis is proof there is true evil in the world.

 

I also read a book called CounterCulture by David Platt. One of the chapters is on sex slavery particularly in children.

Sex slavery in CHILDREN.

How can this even happen?

It is absolutely heart breaking.

 

Tragedy and heartbreak are all too prevalent. It can be, and is honestly, overwhelming to me sometimes.

There are so many questions that come to mind. What can I do? Why is this going on? Surely God could stop it? And how, in the midst of all of this am I supposed to go on? Am I supposed to be happy, joyful, and peaceful in the midst of one tragedy after another?

I keep waiting and waiting for this Disneyland life where everything is bright, everyone is happy, and no one is mistreated or wants for anything. It feels like, that should be an option, shouldn’t it?   And sometimes I try to bury my head and ignore everything that is going on so that I can pretend I do live a Disneyland life.

But I don’t.

And you don’t either.

That isn’t the world we live in.

I don’t mean to be a downer, but that just isn’t reality. The older I get, the more I realize this. Tragedies are not going to stop in my life or in yours. In fact, they are likely to increase.

So, how do we find peace?

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

In light of all of this verse, I recently started a 30 day gratefulness challenge simply to remind myself that each day is a gift, that God gives me each day to live fully for him and every day that I wake up is an opportunity for me to be grateful for so many things. In America in particular, it is very easy for me to get caught up and depressed about really, really petty things.

And so my little family along with some people in my running group and some of our staff are joining me on this gratefulness challenge because the Bible says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks is ALL circumstances:”

 

Yes, it does say that.

BUT, that is not ALL that verse says.

Until today, I pretty much missed the last part. The first part of that verse gets quoted so much but the really, really critical part is the last 10 words.

If I ignore the last 10 words, the verse can get paraphrased in my head as, “Look on the bright side, don’t be a negative nelly, even the so called “negatives” in your life can be a blessing.”

And, that isn’t a horrible paraphrase, but it misses the most important point. The verse isn’t about blind optimism.

It is about optimism BECAUSE we have hope in Christ.

We can rejoice always and pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances because God sent his son for us, that no matter what happens on this earth, that no matter the mistakes we have made, that no matter how many evil people are on this earth, that no matter how many people let us down, Jesus did not and will not let us down. God has promised us the Disneyland life in Heaven for all those who truly believe in Jesus Christ.

Yes, we should be joyful and count our blessings and we should practice being thankful, but all that comes as a result of knowing that our hope is not in the blessings of this world or the people of this world but in the strength and promises of Christ. All of us will pass at some point. All of us will face great tragedy and if we focus on those things, it will be hard to rejoice always. But if we focus on a God who is always pursuing us to the point of sending His son to die on a cross for us, a God who in spite of our flawed nature forgives our sins and offers those who believe Heaven, then we can find joy in all circumstances.

I know this is really, really far fetched for many people. It is hard for me to believe sometimes too. But here’s the deal. If there is even an inkling in your mind that this COULD possibly be true, don’t you owe it to yourself to open your heart and mind and at least whole heartedly explore it?

We are all waiting for that Disneyland life in one way or another, aren’t we?

It’s not going to happen here.

It just isn’t.

Heaven is our only hope.

And it is a hope that makes it possible to Rejoice Always.

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