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Editor’s note: This is a Grace Notes column from September 2018 we're rerunning this week. Nancy Kennedy says the message of “Be anxious for nothing” is timeless and appropriate for the times we’re currently in.

A few years ago, I spoke at a women’s lunch thing at a local church.

The woman who invited me told me that their theme was thankfulness.

The day she asked me, the sky was blue, the humidity was low and I think someone brought in cake to work that day, so of course I said I’d love to talk about being thankful.

After all, it’s easy to give thanks when all is well.

And then in the weeks leading up to my talk, life just sort of fell apart. In many ways it feels like the gates of hell opened up and dumped on my family.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt like this, and I’m fairly certain it won’t be the last.

The apostle Paul told the early church (and, therefore, us) to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

He also said not to be worried or anxious about anything, but in every situation pray and … “let your petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers,” as it says in The Message Bible paraphrase.

And be thankful.

The result? Not necessarily having all your troubles removed or problems solved. But even in the midst of the most impossible and dire circumstances, “the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

That last passage Paul wrote while chained and in prison.

It’s easy to give thanks when all is well, but it sounds crazy to give thanks when life hurts — it sounds crazy, but those who belong to God know that those are the times when God’s grace goes beyond sufficient.

When his peace doesn’t make any sense.

When you have joy even in your deepest sorrow.

When you can say God is good — and believe it — even when your prayers go unanswered, even in the midst of calamity, even when a distant hope is all you have to cling to.

Years ago, while writing my book, “Prayers God Always Answers,” I asked friends to tell me how they had experienced the goodness of God.

I expected people to tell me about cruise vacations or sunshine for a picnic.

But that isn’t what they told me. They told me about hard times they had gone through.

One man told me about his son with cerebral palsy, about his son’s outgoing personality and infectious smile.

“He needs constant care, and it’s hard,” he said. “But through it all, God has been so good. He has given us a son who brings sunshine to those around him and who smiles and laughs at just about everything he sees. That in itself is a small miracle.”

A woman told me of a financial setback that took her from living in a beautiful, spacious house to a basement apartment in someone else’s home.

“In spite of the misfortunes and setbacks, the financial burdens and the lack of privacy, God keeps a song in my heart and a smile on my face,” she said. “Material things in the world are useless if you are not at peace within your spirit. I don’t even have a kitchen, but I never go hungry. Yes, God is truly good.”

One of the hardest, best times in our life was when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter and my husband was unemployed the entire time. We saw God’s goodness to us in countless ways, his provision and his grace and his mercy.

It’s easy to be thankful when life works, and even unbelievers give thanks for their good fortune.

But when things go wrong, it’s those whose hope is in the Lord who can say along with the prophet Habakkuk:

“Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

So, dear friends, be anxious for nothing, rejoice in the Lord, be still and know that he is God and rest in his unfailing, forever enduring love.

And give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

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