I love Thanksgiving. It’s a great time of year – even in South Florida. Sure, we don’t experience the fall leaves or the cold temperatures, but Thanksgiving usually marks the time of year when you can walk outside without instantly breaking out in a sweat. And people seem to be nicer the week of Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s because we are reminded to count the blessings in our lives. Or maybe it’s the calm before the storm of the busy Christmas season. Regardless, I love it.
But I believe Thanksgiving is supposed to last more than just one day in November. It’s more than just an excuse to overeat and watch hours of football. For the Christian, Thanksgiving is supposed to be our state of mind. It’s supposed to be our lifestyle. Thanksgiving should be more of our spirit than just the season.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Read that verse again slowly: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Paul challenges us that regardless of what we walk through, we can maintain an “Attitude of Gratitude.” That’s hard because life is hard. There are many circumstances I deal with where “thankful” isn’t my first response (just keeping it real). Our natural tendency isn’t to keep an attitude of gratitude when life gets hard. Our natural tendency is to see what’s wrong in the situation, or what’s wrong with the other person. By nature, we are discontented. We want something different, better, or more.
I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of “when and then” thinking. “When and then” thinking says:
When I get ___________ (fill in the blank), then I’ll be happy.
When I get out of college, when I get that job.
When I get married, when I can get that car, that home, those shoes, then I will be happy.
Sometimes we get so busy trying to get more, that we miss what we have.
Paul said in Philippians 4, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
This verse tells us that contentment can be learned. We can all learn how to be content with what God has blessed us with. I believe learning contentment starts with identifying the blessings in your life. Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have.
There’s a woman in our church named Traci. Traci is a wife and a mom. Years ago she was in a car accident that left her a paraplegic – bound to a wheelchair. Just this week I walked by Traci and asked the question we all ask each other, “How are you?” Instead of the typical, “Good. How are you?” Traci responded enthusiastically with, “I am blessed! I am so thankful!” Her joy caught me off guard. I sat down and asked her to tell me why she feels so blessed. She went on to say that even though she’s bound to her wheelchair, even though the accident changed her life forever, it didn’t change who she was as a daughter of God. Her faith in Jesus was strong. She shared how grateful she was that her children weren’t in the car with her, and that her husband stayed by her side. She talked about how God has used her wheelchair to start conversations with strangers and share her faith. Traci has learned the secret of being content in all circumstances, and as a result the joy and grace of God is defining her life.
Let’s be people who are thankful in all circumstances and allow the grace and goodness of God to shape our lives. Take time this week to think about the blessings in your life. You may need to write someone a note and express your gratitude to them for what they bring to your life.
Let’s be reminded this week of Paul’s words, “Be thankful in all circumstances…” Let’s make thanksgiving more than a season, let’s make it our spirit.
Take time this week to…
- Write a list of the blessings in your life.
- Write a note to someone to express your gratitude to them.