Everything feels foreign and different this year. Our long ordeal with Covid-19 continues to impact every area of life, it seems. This would be bad enough, but with the looming chaotic presidential election, the future seems even more unsure. Still one of my favorite verses is true, “He shall be the stability of your times,” Isaiah 33:6.
Just reading the words makes me exhale … breathe … God knows.
Lest we forget, He’s reminding us, we aren’t in heaven yet. For we who know Christ this earth is not our home. Life without sin is the home we wish for and it’s called Heaven. This messy year of 2020 reminds us that this earth is a broken, messed up place.
And the now-upon-us holiday season will feel very different too. For many of us, celebrating will feel wrong because loved ones are gone. Again God reminds me, all of us, to be thankful in all things because He is with us. His message is the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A dear friend of ours, Ney Bailey, wrote a book years ago, Faith Is Not a Feeling, to help readers like me understand that faith can be strong even when feelings are a mess. These five words, “faith is not a feeling,” have been a guide to me often in life when I didn’t want to give thanks, forgive, or show grace because I didn’t feel like it.
Giving thanks is a command. It’s not optional. And perhaps this year, more than ever, it’s important for us to show our faith by giving thanks … even when we don’t feel like it.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When I choose to obey this verse, I’m choosing to remember God.
I don’t have to feel grateful to give thanks. In fact, giving thanks without feelings of joy and happiness pleases God more.
Giving thanks reminds me that:
1. God is in control. We are not. Thanking Him is an acknowledgement of His authority. It also realigns my thinking and my faith with what is true.
2. God loves me and is working for my good. He has a plan and a purpose in my present circumstances every day of my life. He promises me that He is working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28). Even when I don’t feel like He is.
3. God’s ways are not my ways. What He is working for good isn’t always visible nor is it in my timing. God never works as fast as I’d like. The changes I desire might not even happen at all.
4. God cares more about my heart than my circumstances. Answered prayer is not His goal. It’s all about my heart and yours. Believing in Him by faith is what He desires. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
5. God can be trusted at all times. Psalm 16:7 tells us, “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.” When I choose to give thanks by faith, not based on my wavering feelings, I am instructing my heart to remember God can be trusted.
Giving thanks isn’t optional. It’s not okay to forego gratitude. “Give thanks in all circumstances” means exactly that. In every situation God asks us, commands us, to give Him thanks.
As you consider how to endure the next few weeks in a world that feels all wrong, may I encourage you to start today giving thanks for what He has allowed in your life, your world? I promise your faith will grow stronger if you do.
Here are a few ideas:
- Make a gratitude jar and start filling it with scraps of paper or sticky notes with words of thanksgiving.
- Hang sticky notes with your words of gratitude all over a wall as a visual reminder of being grateful. (This idea came from my friend Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, @reviveourhearts, @nancydemoss.)
- Read five Psalms a day for the next 30 days. Many of the Psalms are full of praise and thanksgiving.
- For two days, have everyone in your family write down every blessing in their lives, big or small. Doing this will reveal just how much care we receive from God on a daily basis. After two days, share your lists at dinnertime.
- Start a competition with your children! Encourage their naturally competitive spirits to see who can thank Jesus the most. Invite them to cover a wall in their rooms. Have them write “Thank You Jesus for …” every time so they engrain His name in their little hearts. You will also need to remind them at the end that real thankfulness is in the heart and not in your longer-than-your-sibling list!
Gratitude reminds us of God’s truth. We are a forgetful people and God knows it. He tells us plainly, “forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2-5).
God has a plan and He will guide each of us every day. All of the change and ambiguity of 2020 can be good for Christians if we learn daily to trust God more than we did when life was predictable nine months ago.
The actual holiday of Thanksgiving may be weeks away, but we may need the spirit of Thanksgiving … the spirit of gratitude … now more than ever.
I pray you will choose to practice gratitude … no matter what!
If you’re interested in this topic, check out:
Barbara Rainey on the FamilyLife Today radio show talking about practicing gratitude year-round.
Barbara’s two-part series on “Becoming a More Grateful Woman, and Teaching Children to Give Thanks Too.”