23 Wake up! Why are you sleeping, Lord?
Get up! Don’t reject us forever!
24 Why are you hiding your face,
forgetting our suffering and oppression?
25 Look: we’re going down to the dust;
our stomachs are flat on the ground!
26 Stand up! Help us!
Save us for the sake of your faithful love.
Psalm 44:23-26, CEB
Yesterday I talked, once again, about how we need to be completely honest with God about our experience of him, using scripture as our model in that. I like to encourage people to live in reality and not pretend that pain doesn’t exist. In the long run, I think this is a good place to start in dealing with our pain and grief and, perhaps, could lead us to a place of praise or gratitude. I believe that honestly acknowledging the struggle to feel gratitude in the midst of hard times actually relaxes us, because when we’re not honest with God about our experience of him, then we’re compounding our anxieties. We have our anxiety about our hardship plus the anxiety of feeling like we have the “wrong” faithful response. We get ourselves in trouble when we start talking about the “proper” faithful response to a given problem.
The Bible shows many different kinds of responses to problems. On the one hand, we have verses like the ones in 1 Thess 5 that say things like “rejoice always” and “give thanks in every situation.” I think these are great practices when possible, but I doubt the author thought anyone would take him quite so literally as to think that we should give thanks in every single situation. Job didn’t do that, and he was considered righteous. The Psalms don’t do that, and they’re our guides to prayer. So I think Thessalonians is saying something more like, “we should really prioritize joy and thanksgiving in our lives.”
People respond to problems in different ways. That’s probably why the Bible shows us a variety of responses to hard times.
So before you tell someone how they’re supposed to handle what’s going on in their lives, stop to consider that people are different and respond to problems in different ways. Just as there isn’t one answer in the Bible, there isn’t just one answer to how we handle the things life throws at us. Consider listening and trying to figure out the fears or anxieties that hover beneath the surface. Be supportive and encouraging. When people are facing hard times, they don’t need to be told what to do, they need to be comforted.