Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Using absolutes gets me into trouble. I find myself using them mostly when I argue with my husband, and it’s a terrible habit for two reasons. The first is that it’s usually attached to a statement that is in fact mostly an exaggeration. Secondly, absolute terms such as always and never tend to sound accusatory. I’ll give you an example.
“You always leave early for work!”
For starters, I tend to say this out of the emptiness of my love tank, which comes with a tendency to blow things out of proportion. Reacting out of the emptiness of my heart – whether it is due to a lack of time in the Word or a result of feeling unloved by my husband – is unfair because it usually skews reality while shifting the blame for my emptiness onto my husband instead of myself. After all, it was me who did not set aside time with the Lord and it is also me who chooses how to react. Using absolutes also casts blame, and we almost always mean to; that is most certainly wrong way to begin a healthy marital disagreement.
Yet the Bible is full of them. And I love it. I love it because it exerts authority on our lives, as it should. because God is the almighty creator of all things. The Bible is God’s very word to mankind. It is authoritative, dynamic, and alive. So when we read absolute statements we should pay close attention.
This is a command, we don’t have a choice. No matter what is going on in my life, God commands me to rejoice. Easier said than done, but I must obey.
Pray without ceasing
In the original manuscripts, this statement implies a continual action. I think this statement is crucial to being able to obey the previous command. I don’t always feel like rejoicing, but when I pray and ask God to change my heart, it gets a little easier.
Give thanks in ALL circumstances
This is also very difficult but likewise, it goes hand-in-hand with prayer and a continual choice to rejoice. And we do all these things because it is God’s will and we know by His promises, that it will all work itself out for our good (Romans 8:28).
Absolutes have a way of catching our attention and I think that is precisely the reason why Paul uses them in many of his his epistles. We don’t have a choice, we have a calling and a purpose to fulfill. This is something that I’m learning during this time. It’s been a tough summer, certainly more than I bargained for, but by the God’s grace He has led me to the sea so that I can see his mighty hand part it before my eyes. Not only that, but He is carrying me through it and that’s all that this imperfect and tired mamma could ever ask for.
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (Psalm 77:19)