“Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
One of the phrases I hear a lot in describing this time of the coronavirus outbreak is “a time of testing.” From our patience, to relationships, to our faith in God – we are going through a period of testing. Today’s scripture verse speaks about being joyful always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances. I believe these verses are also a test – a test of our spiritual maturity. Anyone can find times in which to be joyful, thankful, or lift up a few prayers. But not everyone can do so “always” regardless of circumstance.
On November 3, 2020, surrounded by his immediate family, my beloved uncle, Bishop Hae Jong Kim, left this earth to be with the Lord. During the funeral service, as people stood up to share about my uncle’s life, there were two consistent themes. The first theme was that nothing came easy for him. From the loss of his father during the Korean War, to having to work several jobs in order to provide for his mother and younger siblings, to his struggle as the first in his family to immigrate to the United States, nothing came easy. Although he eventually rose to the ranks of Bishop in the United Methodist Church, his son reminded everyone during the service that “no one struggled more nor worked harder than my father.”
But the second theme when describing my uncle was that he was a person filled with an unbelievable inner peace. Family, friends, parishioners, and colleagues all shared that he never seemed to get anxious or angry but always seemed content. I can attest to this. My uncle had the same gentle and loving smile, whether he was leading hundreds of people at a United Methodist conference, or whether he was bedridden and cancer stricken during the last days of his life. During the funeral service, the pastor of my uncle shared that never in all his years in ministry, did he see someone who seemed so at peace before his passing. As the pastor read the 23rd Psalm, surrounded by his family, my uncle closed his eyes and breathed his last breath.
No one struggled more yet had as much inner grace and peace than my uncle. He was joyful always, prayed continuously, and gave thanks no matter how difficult his circumstances. In this sense, he ran the good race, fought the good fight, and passed all the tests of faith set before him. All of this was possible not because of his own strength, but through the power of Christ living within him. Even though we are going through this difficult time, may our testimony be the same as that of my uncle:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters,
He restores my soul…
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.