I really love the holidays! I love Thanksgiving, because to me it signifies the beginning of the Christmas season. Even as I type this I am already listening to Christmas music. I used to discipline myself to not do anything Christmasy until December. Then I allowed myself to start investing in Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. A few years ago, I decided that I could listen to Christmas music as I was roasting the turkey and preparing other Thanksgiving foods on that national holiday. Last year was the first time that I decided to start listening to Christmas music at the beginning of Thanksgiving week. Now look at me!
My reasons for beginning Christmas a bit early are many, but probably the most pertinent of those is that it helps bring my mind back to what I am so eternally grateful for. Since Thanksgiving is next Thursday (hard to believe), I thought I would take these next two weeks to focus on the act of giving thanks.
This week I wanted to focus on the therapeutic effects of giving thanks. In a couple of my previous posts revolving around the idea of thankfulness you can see the scriptural foundation provided by God Himself for a thankful heart. Three Little Commands - Give Thanks shares the small but powerful command we are given.
Why do you think God gave us this command? Why is this His will for us in Christ Jesus? My personal belief is God knows His creation better than His creation knows themselves. I’d like to look at a familiar passage and relate how giving thanks is not only God’s will for us, but essential to our well being.
Rejoice in the Lord - The above passage begins with another command. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The first step in this thanksgiving therapy is to look to God. It says to rejoice in the Lord, not in our hobbies, our future plans, our wealth or the articles we read on the internet. It also states that we are to do it always. I believe that means all the time, not just when we feel it, but especially when we don’t feel it. God knows that as we look at Him and rejoice we will be brought back to center.
Do Not Be Anxious - Another command? You bet. It doesn’t say, “Well, if you feel like it today, could you possibly be a little less afraid; a little less anxious; a little less worried…but hey if not, that’s okay.” No! God spoke through Paul when he wrote these words and it says, “Be Anxious for nothing…” However, God knowing just who we are (because He made us) gives us the benefit of the doubt. If we are anxious He tells us what to do….that is where the but comes in.
In Everything by Prayer and Supplication - God wants us to bring it all to Him. If He can’t get you to focus on Him by rejoicing, then bring all your worries, stress, fears, and struggles to Him. Talk to Him. The word supplicate means to entreat God humbly. So get on your knees or lay flat on your face and let Him know what is going on in your heart of hearts. He is big enough to handle it.
There is a condition here, and this is where my thoughts are leading. The condition is that we entreat Him with THANKSGIVING. The condition is there for a purpose, one that God and only God fully understands because it is He who created us. Why do we need to make our requests to Him with thanksgiving?
And the Peace of God, Which Surpasses All Comprehension, Will Guard Your Hearts and Your Minds in Christ Jesus.
What is so special about this peace?
It is of God. We didn’t conjure it up ourselves.
It surpasses all our understanding. The fact that this peace has the ability to surpass anything we can understand, shows that it is a supernatural peace.
It has a protective ability. This peace is able to protect our hearts, when they have been rent into pieces by lost love, death or other tragedies. This peace is able to protect our minds, when they begin that downward spiral into anxiety and despair.
It is completely connected to the person of Jesus Christ. This peace is not attainable apart from Him.
The connection between the elements of prayer and thanksgiving was put into place by God because He knew the essential nature of thankfulness in the human heart. In order for us to be completely at peace, we must practice thankfulness.
However, God, being the merciful One that He is added a few more thoughts.
Dwell on These Things - Not only does He give the command, then provide the steps to accomplish the command, He adds an element of active faith to the mix. Not many of us would be content to just retreat into our closets and pray with thanksgiving, we want to be doing something. Here is a list of things to think about. Things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute and excellent. How can we still be fearful or discouraged if we are truly thinking on a list like this? He tells us to dwell on these things. That means we are to think about them on a very regular basis. To dwell means to live there. Live where there are true things. Live where there are pure things. Live where there are lovely things.
Finally, the Apostle Paul encourages the readers of this letter to this end:
Practice These Things - Once you have heard and seen and learned the way to do something, then practice it. Practice is how we become proficient at doing things. Riding a bike, driving a car, learning a job, writing, reading, tying our shoes, all had to be practiced and were practiced after hearing and seeing and learning how to do them. In the same way the ability to rejoice and not be anxious are learned as we practice the art of prayer with thanksgiving while dwelling on these things.
I hope that reading this will encourage you to hear and see and learn how to be more thankful and less stressed as we enter in to the holiday season.