By Mary Ann Hughes
There is a lot in the bible that I don’t understand.
As I say that, one phrase especially comes to mind. It’s from I Thessalonians.
Paul writes, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Pray without ceasing?
Each part of that bible verse has always been difficult for me.
Rejoice always. Now? In a pandemic?
I have come to believe that rejoicing is an interior decision that’s not based on exterior realities.
My dear friend, Donna, died earlier this year. I spent quite a bit of time with her during her last two weeks here on earth. What I came to believe about her was that she woke up in the morning and actively made a decision to have a good day.
Things weren’t easy for her in her golden years. She and her husband had planned to travel the country as soon as he retired. The week, the very week that he retired, he had a stem cell stroke.
Every year his condition worsened; and instead of enjoying life on the road together, they were never able to leave their home.
She took care of him for 17 years. Yes, 17 years. Each year, as his physical condition deteriorated, she continued to lovingly care for him.
Her days were long and tiring, and often without victories. And yet she rejoiced. She actively rejoiced.
How did she do that? I think she willed herself to do it.
Back to Thessalonians. How in the world do we pray without ceasing?
This never made sense to me, but now it’s starting to.
I think it means to make each action in our lives a prayer.
My brother, Dean, is special needs. We recently put him into a nursing home. I am beginning to understand that when I call him on the phone and ask him about his day, that’s a prayer.
And when my husband and I take our evening walk, that’s a prayer.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta encouraged us to do small things with great love. I think she understood that those small things would become our prayers.
And giving thanks? I think it’s vitally important in enriching and developing our spiritual lives.
I have learned that out of the most difficult situations, great and wonderful changes can happen in us – changes that never would have happened if the road had been smooth and straight.
It was the climbing and the falling that changed us, and made us better and stronger – not the sitting peacefully in the sunshine. I know that it takes a long, long time to appreciate the hard times. It really does.
We must give thanks in all circumstances, recognizing that this is the will of God.