Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is approaching. All of this comes with a range of emotions, memories and expectations. The emotions are impacted by the joy of new birth and the grief of those loved ones that have past on and can no longer sit around the table and eat and laugh with us. The memories are mixed with thoughts of good times and bad fueling laughter and tears. And often, the expectations are unrealistic immersed in the pressure of trying to please or impress others. Beyond that, our experience tells us that expectations are often a waste of time and typically will steal the joy of the season and the opportunity to develop deeper relationships.
During this season, for many of us, it is the busiest time of the year. Our time is filled with shopping, decorating, baking, inviting, coming and going, playing, watching, sharing and interacting. Can you say hustle and bustle? Furthermore, although we are around a lot of people and see a lot of people, we can allow all the activities and expectations to steal our joy and thankfulness. Even though we are in the same room with people, it can feel more like an event than fellowship. In fact, some of the loneliest moments of my life have been in a shopping center, mall or stadium where people were numerous. Although there were plenty of people, there was minimal interaction.
Did you know that we are commanded in scripture to give thanks? 1 TH 5:18 ”give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And please notice, two things from this verse. First, we are to give thanks in all circumstances. Second, giving thanks is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. Having a bad day? Stop and give thanks. Having a bad year? Stop and give thanks. After all, there is always something or someone you are thankful for if you think about it. So join me in making a list of things and people you’re thankful for. And don’t just make a list, tell others who and what you’re thankful for. And don’t just make a list and tell others who and what your thankful for, but allow others to see your thankfulness in how you live.
I admit that an attitude of gratitude doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Thankfulness is obviously harder when difficult times or painful situations invade our life. Let’s not kid ourselves. This command to be thankful, no matter what happens, is possible only by God’s grace. However, when we learn to trust God and believe that He “works all things out for good to those who love him and are committed to obedience” (Rom. 8:28), only then we can thank Him in all circumstances.
So many of us have questions about God’s will. Some of us even say, I don’t know what God’s will is regarding this situation or that circumstance. However, in this case, we don’t have to wonder. It is emphatically stated: this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. There is no need for seminars, Google searches, books or even commentaries. God’s will for us is to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful because we are his children and He has a plan for us. Now my prayer for us is this: Heavenly Father, everlasting, almighty, sovereign God of the universe, help us trust You, love You, focus on You and rest in You as we remember to give thanks in all circumstances. Help us to slow down and experience our relationship with You and the people in our life in a deeper and richer way. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.