These words are a benediction, a blessing, spoken by Paul over the Christians in the city of Thessalonica. They were experiencing persecution and trials in their lives, and these words are full of truths about who God is and his actions towards us, that come to us still today, when we are suffering, and give us hope.
The great anchor in times of suffering is that “God our Father…loved us”. No matter what we are passing through, the knowledge that we are loved by God is transformative. How we need to hold on to this truth in times of trouble.
Though current circumstances may be discouraging, though we may feel we are losing hope, Paul speaks of God’s grace, through which God “gave us eternal encouragement and good hope”. Our suffering may be intense, but it is only temporary. What God promises us through Christ – this “good hope”- is a future free from suffering that lasts forever.
When our hearts are laid low by difficulty, when our strength is sapped by life, Paul speaks words of blessing over us: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father…encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word”.
That last part is both a comfort and a call to action: the goodness of God towards us overflows from our lives. Despite circumstances that may be anything but good, God works in and through us. He enables us to be living benedictions, as through our deeds and words, God blesses the broken lives and the broken world that surround us.
Whatever our circumstances today, may the goodness of God spill over from our lives, to bring God’s blessing to others today.