Christmas decorations seemed to pop out of nowhere over night. Sure there’s those people who start decorating for Christmas back in October (maybe I’m talking to you), but now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday season is in full swing.
Cleaning up the Thanksgiving meal is my signal to begin all things Christmas. Getting the tree up, finishing the gift lists, and well, visiting Hobby Lobby a few times.
But this year, I want to hold on to Thanksgiving a little longer. Not just the celebration of a holiday, but all that it means. Thanksgiving shouldn’t be an event, but a lifestyle.
Instead of just looking to the next event, I want to walk into this Christmas season with a thankful heart. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? And why stop there? A lifetime of thankfulness sounds even better.
Thankfulness is the way of life that God wants for His children.
That’s why Ephesians 5:20 gives us this instruction:
“giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father”
The two words that stand out to me in that verse are always and all. That’s really inclusive. In case we didn’t notice the word always, hopefully we will take note when it says all. God really has given us so much that it makes sense to be thankful always.
It makes me think of one of my favorite Thanksgiving activity - making a “thankful” list of as many things as I can possibly remember. I’m always amazed at how many things God has given to me, and it puts life into perspective. The things on the list can be big or small, from spiritual things, to family and friends, or even things I take for granted - like clean water. With not much effort at all, I can fill a page with good things.
I’d like to think of myself as being a thankful person. The truth is, it is easy for me to be thankful on a holiday. Usually I’m surrounded by family, eating amazing food, and just celebrating. But what about those other days? The days when there are angering inconveniences, hardships, and hassles? Problems quickly overshadow my festive thoughts of thanksgiving, and I find myself angry, complaining, or just wanting more.
Life can get really rough. You might know that all too well. There’s the people in life who don’t appreciate you, the job where you aren’t finding satisfaction, or maybe you lost a job that you loved. Bills are piling up. Exhaustion, infertility, singleness, abuse... the list goes on.
But even in these things, God wants us to be grateful for what we have. And grateful for His care for us. Always. Concerning all things. This does not mean that we need to be thankful for all things, but in all things or concerning all things. Obviously not all things are good. Perhaps something evil has happened in your life. God knows about your pain. Being thankful doesn’t mean that we never grieve or feel sadness. In fact, God has given you emotions to feel. It doesn’t mean that you must pretend that you are always happy and hide your feelings away.
Thankfulness, instead, is trusting in God. In the good things, it is recognizing that everything we have comes from God. Even if we worked very hard to achieve a goal, it is God who has ultimately given us the strength, ability, and opportunities to pursue our needs and desires.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow." James 1:17 WEB
But God deserves our thankfulness in the dark times, too. He hasn’t left us alone to find our own way. He cares, and He is there for us. Again, this does not mean that we thank God for bad situations, but we thank Him for who He is and how He provides for us. This takes faith. As humans, we can’t see the end. It might seem like there is no end. But God is not distant. He knows your needs and is working in your life. The Bible is full of examples of Jesus reassuring us that we truly can trust Him. Could there be anything better than that?
Philippians 4:6 is one of my favorite verses because I need to be reminded about this repeatedly. For real. All. The. Time.
"In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus"
This doesn’t leave any room for complaining. Why? Because God has got it. Instead of worrying, complaining, and trying to finagle each uncomfortable situation with my own tactics, I think it’s time to follow the plan that works: asking God with a thankful mindset.
He knows everything before we ask, and yet He wants us to willingly come to Him. That is an invitation that I’d be crazy to decline.. but I do it more often than I would like to admit.
I don’t know where you are in life right now. Maybe you’ve had an amazing year. Thank God. Really. Thank Him. Maybe you’ve suffered unbelievable pain and loss. God loves you and invites you to let Him carry your load. Hold on to thanksgiving.
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful." Colossians 3:15 WEB
Has there ever been an event in your life that was negative, but God ended up working it out for your benefit? Share your experience in the comments!