The church sign says “For blue skies and fall colors, we give thanks.” Yes, that’s true – I am blessed to live in a place where a full array of seasons shows up most beautifully in our trees. Here, I understand why Tar Heel fans boast that God made the sky Carolina blue. But as I drive by the sign, I look up and notice that the skies are gray. And the trees are past peak color, and their withered leaves blanket the ground.
My thoughts are cynical and my heart is heavy, so I murmur “So what now?” I don’t feel like giving thanks for clouds and dead leaves.
This year, more than any other, I must choose thanksgiving.
As I walk around the store, I grimace while “Holly Jolly Christmas” is playing in the background. I’m not festive; I’m floundering – not able to think straight. Oh, I remember – reality hits me like a tidal wave – I’m looking for waterproof mascara and a black dress fit for a somber occasion.
From out of the blue, the thought occurs to me that I must surely not be the only person in this store who has a broken heart. Unexpectedly — and unnaturally — in the midst of my sadness, I have patience for the cashier and the person in front of me who writes a check. And I realize that while my heart is heavy, it’s not hardened. The Holy Spirit helps me to choose a response that’s naturally inconsistent with my feelings and my circumstances. That’s how the Spirit works sometimes.
And so, I will choose to see. There are many, many things for which I can give thanks. Many of them wouldn’t be of my own choosing right now but they are gifts nonetheless.
I’ve been thinking of how to prepare my daughter for a different Christmas this year. The thought of a different Christmas simultaneously saddens and relieves me. The holidays are complicated, yes? It’s probably true that the average person, no matter his or her circumstances, will experience some sort of holiday let-down.
I’m choosing to get ahead of the holiday let-down by laying down my expectations. I yearn for a Christmas that is filled with comfort instead of chaos. This year I’m not concerned about impressing others with my decorating, baking, and shopping skills; I need Someone to impress His name into my soul.
Immanuel – God With Us (Matthew 1:23).
Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
This laying-down is possible, I think, in the midst of these feelings and these circumstances. It’s not natural; it’s supernatural, and I need the help of the One who came in a manger of all lowly places to demonstrate that His strength is perfected in weakness.
But here I am, even now, considering Christmas when it’s not yet Thanksgiving. I can’t tell you where Scripture commands us to observe Christ’s birthday but I could find numerous commands to give thanks (and, in all circumstances – 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Giving thanks is the best way to choose comfort over chaos. Giving thanks puts our hearts at rest with the things we have. God sent His Son into the world to be all that I will ever need. I will choose contentment. And comfort. And Christmas as it is truly meant to be.
Thanksgiving this year will be different. Dear Lord, let that begin in my heart.
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” ~ A. W. Tozer
“The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become – the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. Awareness of our poverty and ineptitude causes us to rejoice in the gift of being called out of darkness into wondrous light and translated into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.” ~ Brennan Manning – The Ragamuffin Gospel
“In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, in the young man who seeks my advice, the Lord Himself is present: therefore let us wash His feet. Let us give thanks and walk into Advent knowing that time is manufactured for eternity, the breath of humanity for the glory of God, our love of neighbor for the sake of the eternal Godhead Itself.” ~ C.S. Lewis – The Collected Letters Volume II
“Thanksgiving or complaining — these words express two contrastive attitudes of the souls of God’s children in regard to His dealings with them; and they are more powerful than we are inclined to believe in furthering or frustrating His purposes of comfort and peace toward us. The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing.” ~ Hannah Whitall Smith, God of All Comfort
“Thanking Me for adversity requires a deep level of trust: in My goodness, My mercy, My love. People who are leaning on their own understanding cannot achieve this depth of trust. So, handling difficulties courageously involves relinquishing your demand to understand.” ~ Sarah Young, Jesus Lives
“In Psalm 33:21 we read, “Our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.” Trust is the ground for our thanksgiving. I talked a little bit yesterday about thanking God for the bad things that happen, as Habakkuk did. Even when there was no cattle in the stall, no figs on the tree, he said, “Yet will I rejoice in God my Savior.”
Now humanly speaking, it makes no sense to rejoice when things are going badly. But Christians are not always “humanly speaking,” are they? We’re speaking divinely. We are using the words of God on which to found our faith. We stand on a rock that never moves. The world passes away, the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever. So trust is the ground for our thanksgiving, no matter what happens.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot – Trusting is the Ground For Thanksgiving
“We won’t stop confessing He is good and we won’t stop thanking Him for grace and we won’t stop holding out our hands — and taking His hand. We won’t stop believing that “God is good” is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days.
That “God is good” is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard…. Thanksgiving in all things accepts the deep mystery of God through everything.” ~ Ann Voskamp, When the Holidays Just Seem Hard
“I find this truth about the power of thanksgiving over and over in Scripture. What was the prayer Daniel prayed right before being thrown in the lion’s den and witnessing God miraculously shutting the lion’s mouths? Thanksgiving.
After three days in the belly of a fish, what was the cry of Jonah’s heart right before he was finally delivered onto dry land? Thanksgiving.
How are we instructed to pray in Philippians 4:6 when we feel anxious? With thanksgiving. And what is the outcome of each of these situations where thanksgiving is proclaimed? Peace.
Powerful, unexplainable, uncontainable peace.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).” ~ Lysa TerKeurst – The Treasure of Thrown-Away Food