“Be thankful.” Wow! That’s a bold Biblical command. That it’s a command stresses how important it is to live this way. It’s not a natural response to life’s happenings. But there it is, glaringly added at the end of a Scripture verse, Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Being thankful is a choice. Thankfulness sometimes wells up in us: when the police stopped you but didn’t give you a ticket; or your blood panel came back normal, or you passed your test. Or your car repair cost less than expected.
The choice to be thankful is needed most when things aren’t going well. Your roof or basement is leaking. You broke your wrist. No response to your job application or budget cuts cost you your job. You received a scary medical diagnosis, or a loved one dies. These not-so-good life happenings behoove us to choose to be thankful.
To pursue thankfulness in such circumstances is to recognize that the Bible doesn’t call us to be thankful for hard things but in those things. Maybe it could be worse. Your scary medical diagnosis has treatment options. A hope-filled reason to be thankful is that God is with you in your experiences. Always. Worrisome times can be a unique juncture to dare to believe that God is with you, even if you are choosing to believe that for the first time.
Wuest’s Word Studies In The Greek New Testament sheds further light on Colossians 3:15 with this rendering: “The peace of Christ, let it be acting as umpire in your hearts, into which also you were called in one body. And be constantly thankful ones.” The Greek verb (translated as thankful) is a continuous action present tense (unlike an English present tense) which Wuest rightly captures to be constantly thankful. I. E., make it a way of life.
The Israelite’s Exodus to the Promised Land took 40 years though they were within eleven days from the Promised Land when the journey began. Among the numerous sins that complicated their journey was their often-mentioned constant grumbling. Put simply, grumbling slows you down.
Imagination is a wonderful gift. Imagine a home project completed, a school to attend, and classes to pursue. Imagine those imaginations affecting job possibilities. Imagine growing in your marriage, thinking together, practicing forgiveness, and extending grace to each other. Imagine fresh, understanding love. Imagine a fun weekend with your children or grandchildren. Imagine how to decorate your home, or how to get that piece of furniture you’d like. Imagine better care for an aging parent. Imagine a closer relationship with God.
But what if imagination comes unhinged? That happened to me recently during a Judson University Chapel on Founder’s Day. The music was inspiring. An outstanding Native American speaker had so much to say. While taking it all in my silenced phone began vibrating. I peeked. It was my sister. What? These are her work hours. Her call couldn’t wait until after work? Sitting near the front in a long row, walking out to take her call would disturb everyone.
My imagination came unhinged. Had something happened to her? An auto accident on the way to work? Had she been injured at work? Was it her children, their spouses, or grandchildren? That tree in her yard that was splitting . . . workers secured it, but what if that failed? It must be something bad because it’s so difficult for her to answer her phone at work. It became more difficult to concentrate. Slowly I surrendered those thoughts to God. I would contact her immediately after Chapel.
I texted: “Did you call me? My phone rang in Chapel but I couldn’t answer.” She texted right back. “No, we’re camping at Clinton lake, eating breakfast,” then gave me a fishing report from her son and grandson. Whew! She accidentally hit the dial button, but my imagination lamentably distorted that call.
The Bible cautions about imaginations. Romans 1:20-21 says God’s creation reveals God. Instead of recognizing God as Creator, however, some people vainly imagine otherwise. The Greek word translated vain means foolish. Imaginations can be foolish, like mine in Chapel at Judson.
The Bible tells us what to do with foolish imaginations: cast down those imaginations and take every thought captive and make it obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Imagine doing that the next time your imaginations become unhinged.