When we look at the number of things that we perceive to be wrong in our lives, we can become somewhat overwhelmed. Reading books, seeking help from trustworthy friends or qualified persons may even increase our difficulties before they bring any relief. We may discover that areas we never paid much attention to are actually pitfalls from which we should free ourselves.
When we work on our problems we put the focus solely on the problems. At times one or another of our more persistent issues may stir up so much turmoil that we can hardly think of anything else. Anxiety and suppressed anger can so agitate us that they absorb all our mental energy. We may become so preoccupied with what we perceive to be wrong that we spend all our time worrying about how to change. Nothing is wrong with trying to get free of our problems, but taking stock and worrying only causes us to fix our eyes on ourselves to a point that is spiritually unhealthy.
We ask the question then “How can we turn away from our problems and look to the Lord for help?” The most effective approach is based on the principle of rejoicing and giving thanks to the Lord in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be happy at all times, pray constantly, and for all things give thanks to God because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.” Joy and thankfulness are qualities that underlie the Christian life. We should be joyful and thankful not only in good times when we feel happy or grateful but in challenging times as well. We can rejoice even in painful circumstances without having to feel happy about them. The command is to be joyful always. We are to give thanks in all circumstances. St. Paul says thankfulness is the proper response to every circumstance, both good and bad.
To rejoice and give thanks in the midst of our problems is not to say that those problems are good. Problems are not good. We have every reason for wanting to be free of them. Though our difficulties are not good in themselves, they can lead to something good. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters when trials come.” We are to be glad when trials come because each time we pass through them, we will become more like our Father who is perfect and complete.
The New Testament teaches us to approach our problems in a way that maintains our connection to the power of God. “We know that in everything God works for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This can be said another way. “In all things, God works.” In good and bad, virtue and vice, righteousness and wrongdoing – God works. It is not that we should sin in order to see grace abound. Rather our problems are reasons for rejoicing and giving thanks because they are opportunities for us to see the power of God at work in our lives.
Once we grasp this truth, we must act on it. When we are faced with a problem, we must thank God for working it to our good. It will be difficult to thank God during these trying times, but in the midst of our anguish, we should thank God for the chance to see Him at work. We should express our eagerness to behold the change God will accomplish in us as a consequence.
Joy and thankfulness transform our problems into opportunities for the Lord to work in our lives. They turn our minds from our problems to God.