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.
We all go through times of disappointment. They could be due to circumstances or they could be because of a consequence of sin. The question is,"how do we deal with disappointment?" We have several options: 1. we could rationalize it 2. we could project our disappointment onto someone else 3. we can repress it and can just pretend to forget about it 4. we can do a series of other unhealthy defense mechanisms or 5. we can turn to Scripture and see what to do.
The Apostle Paul went through many disappointments within his lifetime. In 1 Thessalonians, we see that one of his great disappointments was not being able to visit the church in Thessalonica. In chapter 2, he discusses his great desire to see his beloved followers in whom he had invested so much time. However, in Acts 17, it shows that his visit had to be cut short due to opposition. It is for this reason that he still has not been able to return to the church there. Instead of sulking about his disappointment, Paul sends Timothy to check on the congregation while he remained in Athens (1 Thess. 3:1-2).
We can learn several things from the way Paul responded to disappointment through the exhortation he gave in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
1. Express joy in all things. Paul consistently expressed the joy he had in Christ. He saw the faith of the Thessalonians to be a source of joy. This was unswayed by circumstances because he saw God at work in them. He therefore did not have an ownership over them, but saw them as belonging to God. We often struggle with expressing joy in our lives when we lay claim over things that ultimately belong to God. This could include our plans, our loved ones, our jobs, etc.
2. Remain thankful no matter the circumstance. Paul continues to thank God throughout the letter, though God's plans might not have matched up to his own. (1 Thess. 1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 5:18). We often struggle with thankfulness when we let the disappointing situation distract us from our relationship with God. However, having a spirit of thankfulness helps us keep a proper perspective of the situation and the God in charge.
3. Continue in prayer. Prayer is a pervasive element in Paul's ministry. He prays for the people he ministers to and continues to pray for an opportunity to see them again. His persistence in prayer shows his reliance upon God in all circumstances. It also shows that no matter the circumstance, God is the priority. (1 Thess 1:2; 3:10; 5:17). When faced with disappointment, we should continue to express our trust in God through prayer. It helps us keep hope in God's plan for our lives.
God's ultimate will for our lives is our sanctification. He desires for us to develop Christ-like character by walking in the Spirit. By doing these three things, we keep ourselves from blocking the Spirit's work in our life.