To kick off November, my classroom Scripture of the Week was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice, pray, give thanks – it seemed like a sweet, appropriate message as we entered the holiday season. The more I prayed over this scripture with my classes, though, the more it presented itself as a challenge to me: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…”
This is a lofty challenge when the reality of teaching isn’t just high-fives in the hallway and shiny red apples on your desk.
The life of a teacher is often boring – starting mornings with faculty meetings and moving through the motions of not-so-jazzy lesson plans.
The life of a teacher is demanding – taking home emotional frustrations along with emails to respond to and papers to grade.
The life of a teacher is often trying – preserving energy in a room full of blank stares and altering lesson plans at the last minute because no one completed the homework.
The life of a teacher can be exhausting. It is difficult to find the time, nonetheless the energy (or humility), to rejoice and pray through it all.
Yet that’s exactly what we’re called to do: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” This Scripture is not a challenge, it’s an invitation. Amid our daily trials – sleepiness, classroom power struggles, community discordance, stressful workloads – God invites us to turn to Him. When we are tired, God “makes us lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). When we carry emotional burdens, God places “[His] yoke upon [us]” to help bear the weight (Matthew 11:29). When we are overwhelmed, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards [our] hearts and minds” (Philippians 4:6).
If we view hardship as invitation into relationship, then we more readily find reasons for rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving in light of, not in spite of, our trials. The acts of rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks are demonstrations of faith in God’s purposefulness. Every boring class that we teach is an opportunity to rejoice in the sole presence of our students. Every demanding addition to our workload is an opportunity to pray for God’s strength. Every difficult day is an opportunity to thank God for building our patience. Our sufferings are all for the glory of God and thus we are called to “consider the testing of [our] faith…pure joy” (James 1:2). As we confidently “take up the shield of faith” in our daily battles, we grow in virtue and relationship (Ephesians 6:16). Is this not a reason to rejoice, pray, and give thanks?!
Today, I am thankful for the moments that test me. I am thankful that God presents me with challenges as a call into faithfulness, and that He calls me into faith to offer me humility and healing. I am thankful for the days that are demanding and exhausting just as I am thankful for the days that are joyful and energizing. God’s purpose extends through trials and transforms difficulty into opportunities for rejoicing.
So, this Thanksgiving season, let us “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances,” for on good days and bad, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”