No matter whether you know all the 'right' answers or whether you are just learning of God's grace through pain for the first time, each of us has to answer that question on an individual level, and more often than not, it's a question that has to be revisited many times. As C.S. Lewis said, "Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done."
The Apostle Paul writes "as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him..." The Christian life is not a decision for Christ. It is not a one-time stop in life's long series of options and twists and turns. It is a journey, a turning over of your selfish self to the lordship of the Creator, and all of your life's decisions are made in Him. It is a daily taking up of your cross, denying yourself for the surpassing joy of being with the Lord, and acknowledging the sovereignty that He commands in your life. It is motion, not stagnation.
However, it is also important to remember that Paul is very clear in his next words that the motion of the Christian journey is not one of fluttering about and uncertainty. In the previous verses he talked about not getting caught up in persuasive sounding lies. How do we avoid that? By being rooted and built up in Christ, with an established faith. Think of the motion of a fall leaf, being torn from the tree by a gust of wind and flowing wherever the wind takes it. That malleability is exactly what Paul does not want for believers in Christ. Originally, I was going to say that we were to be like the tree that the leaf comes from, but that analogy fell apart with the recollection that I had just talked about the journey of walking with Christ. With that in mind, I'm going to encourage you to think of being like the Ents in Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings, or the living trees from Lewis' Narnia stories, who moved, and yet stood firm. And if that doesn't make sense to you, forget the analogy, forgive the tired brain of this author, and just remember the actual truths of Scripture!
Abounding in Thanksgiving
It can be easy to thank God when all is going well in your little part of the world. Maybe you've gotten exciting news, spent time with a friend, fallen in love, seen a beautiful part of creation, or just had an awestruck 'mountain high' moment praising God. But what about when it's not all going well? What about the times when things are going horribly wrong, for you, for someone close to you, or maybe just when you get become generally overwhelmed by the pain of the whole world? The hard answer is, that those are the times when it is more important than ever to thank God. That's not a glib answer for me; I've lived out the difficulty of it. I've spent my share of time asking God why things have to be the way they are. Beyond the pain of certain situations, it can also be painful to admit that it is not always for us to understand now why some things happen the way they do.
But here's a truth: Thanksgiving does a refining work on our faith. Taking up the discipline of thanksgiving, and making it a habit in your life, will bring you closer to the Lord. If you can't think of anything to thank Him for in your circumstances, start with thanking Him for always being with you. "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." He understands our hearts; He MADE our hearts. Therefore, every emotion is safe with Him. "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."
If the thought of abounding in thanksgiving is something you want to consider more, I highly recommend Ann Voskamp's book and blog. Her encouraging words, combined with beautiful photography that emphasize the simple joys in life, are always a welcome sight in my inbox (and I have to like a blog quite a bit to subscribe to updates with my private email!)
My prayers are with you as we seek together to be like the Middle-Earth Ents or Narnian Trees (or, perhaps, simply a 'rooted and built up' Christian!) May God bless you in your journey with Him.