My family, to be honest, is not always thankful. We have to work at it. One year, we wrote on slips of paper and filled a jar with things for which we were thankful. Some years, we keep a weekly gratitude journal to remind us of God’s blessings, large or small. Last year, we tried something new: we collaborated to create a Google Jamboard (a virtual bulletin board) of photographs and good memories from 2020.
Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know how thankful he was for the good report Timothy had brought about them. As we read yesterday, he desired to visit but had been blocked by Satan from doing so (1 Thess. 2:18). Instead, Paul sent Timothy. Had they been misled? Had they been derailed? Had Paul’s ministry been in vain? Not at all! Timothy had brought good news about their faith and love (3:6). He’d reported that far from being overcome by suffering, they were persevering and growing in the Lord. Paul felt tremendously encouraged by this news (vv. 7–8)! Figuratively, it was as though part of him had died while worrying about what was happening in Thessalonica. Timothy’s good news revived him—“now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” As well as showing emotion, these words also showed that Paul was spiritually encouraged: His suffering was worth it. The ministry of the gospel was moving forward.
All this led naturally to renewed thankfulness by Paul (v. 9). He rejoiced to know for sure that the Thessalonians were doing well spiritually. He still longed to see them in person (v. 10), not only for the sake of their friendship but also for him to be able to “supply what is lacking in your faith,” that is, continue to teach and disciple them toward Christian maturity.
>> We all experience both positive and negative emotions. It’s part of life, including the spiritual life. As the Psalms demonstrate, expressing our emotions to God can be a healthy part of our relationship with Him.
Lord, you understand the human experience because you have lived it yourself. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). Teach us to bring our emotions to you in prayer.