Choosing to Be Thankful

Every year my social media outlets are flooded with statuses and photos each day of November, expressing why someone is thankful and what they are thankful for. It’s fun to scroll through and see happiness and gratitude—more so than normal. Some people talk about their spouse and children. Some people are thankful for their farm and animals. Other’s are thankful for political figures or awards. And there is joy and happiness, and there is thankfulness and blessing.
During the holiday seasons, you have two different types of people. The happy and joyful, and the angry and depressed. I would venture to say that I see just as many statuses expressing the stress of the holidays as I do gratifying them. And that’s ok too. Why? Because it proves that we are still human living in a fallen world. I would venture to say that the people in the second group are even more real than some of the ones in the first. They are raw, they are broken, they are hurting. Does it mean they have to be Debbie Downers? Not at all. But with a listening ear, and a compassionate heart, you might just react differently than scrolling past in annoyance.

We have this ultimate decision though, every single day of our lives. We see gratitude and thankfulness during the end of the year holidays, but what about the other ten months out of the year?

What does your life look like after the holiday rush?

What attitude do you choose to live with in the Springtime when your child brings home a bad report card? What attitude do you choose to have when your plans don’t go the way you imagined them to go? Do you have a grateful heart when your spouse doesn’t meet your expectations? Do you have a compassionate heart when your child is in the middle of the biggest temper tantrum of his life?

Are you in a state of gratefulness when the bills aren’t paid, when the floors aren’t mopped, or when someone just rubs you the wrong way?

I’d love to sit here and say that I live in a state of thankfulness every day—but I don’t.

Let’s just be honest here. I choose not to be grateful every day. And that’s what it truly boils down to.

I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’m not perfect. That’s the beauty of blogging—you get to share your life, but you don’t always share the parts that you’re not willing to put on display just yet. We all have those moments, it’s not just bloggers. Except, people in a leadership role or who have influence (such as bloggers) are always held to such high regard, that when they let people down, they are seen as having sinned worse than the one reading or following, or are seen to have lied in some way about their life. When in reality, the people who follow them are simply placing them on a pedestal of idolatry—choosing to follow their lives more closely than the life of Christ, or the commandments He’s given to us.

It is the root of all disappointment—expectations.

One of my favorite quotes is this—

You aren’t called to follow Christians, you are called to follow Christ, because most certainly, you’ll be disappointed if you follow Christians.

Have you ever heard the saying, love is a choice?

It’s true.

It’s especially true in marriage.

After you’ve been married for some time, you’ll realize that there are a whole lot of things you don’t “like” about your spouse. It happens in every marriage. Maybe it’s the way they laugh, the way they eat, the way they spray toothpaste on the bathroom mirror when they brush their teeth (c’mon ladies, you get this one!).

Ultimately, you wake up every morning and you choose to look past those annoyances—you choose to love your spouse every single day.
It’s the same with being thankful. During the month of November, many people choose to force themselves to think about the things they are thankful for. In fact, some people even struggle with finding 30 things to be thankful for in one month, while others could go another 30 days. But the rest of the year, they could quite honestly care less about carving out a time to experience gratitude for much of anything.
When we really sit down and think about it, living in a state of thankfulness is a lot like living in a state of love. In fact, I would even say that the two go hand in hand, as they are both commandments in the Bible. It’s also similar to living in a state of joy. Joy doesn’t mean you are always happy,—living in joy is a choice. Love, joy, and thankfulness are all three choices that we must make in our own lives. How do I know this? This is how….

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances. Wow, God, you’re really insane, you know that? I’ve said that before. How can you give thanks in a trial or tribulation? How can you give thanks when a child is sick or dying? How can you give thanks when the world is crumbling at the feet of idolatry and wickedness from poor leadership? How can you give thanks when you’re hurt or angry? How can you give thanks when there are starving families and children during the holidays? How can you give thanks when there are churches that are more concerned with their income than the people within their walls? How can you give thanks when a family member dies? How…..

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 12:20, where it says that deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. Joy doesn’t just come. It doesn’t just come and stay. There is an action that requires joy, and that action is to promote peace, to promote love, to promote thankfulness, even when you don’t feel like it. And then, there is joy. The action is to choose joyYou must choose joy, even in the midst of it all. You must choose gratitude and love, even in the midst of it all.

There is no one scripture that fixes it all or tells you how to live life. This I promise you.

That is why we’re encouraged to let the message of Christ dwell among us and within us. Throughout the Bible we constantly see these things together—love, joy, peace, and finally, gratefulness. And there are tidbits of wisdom that tell us how to live in a state of gratefulness and peace. In fact, in 1 Peter we are encouraged to pursue peace at all times. Pursue it! What a strong word—pursue. Do you know what that means? It means you must take an action to seek out peace, because in our natural state of humanity, we are not peacekeepers or peace makers. You are in charge of making your own peace at times. And in James 2, we’re very clearly told that faith without deeds (or works) is dead. There is action, there is always action and movement on our part. Christianity isn’t simply saying “God I’m sad, give me peace”. There is an action on our part at all times….pursing peace, choosing joy, choosing love…..

…and then thankfulness comes.
….and then joy comes.
….and while life still might not make sense, there is a grateful heart.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:6

I encourage you, this holiday season, to choose to be thankful. But I also encourage you to choose thankfulness through out the entire new year that is coming. Because we aren’t told that we’ll live a life of joy by only living in a state of thanksgiving during the holidays. We’re told that we’ll live a life of joy when we pursue peace, and when we give thanks in every single circumstance.
It doesn’t mean we won’t hurt. It doesn’t mean we won’t cry. It doesn’t mean we won’t mess up. But it does make life a lot easier, a lot more bearable, and ultimately, brings us a lot closer to God than ever before. And maybe, just maybe, we can understand this world a little better. Just maybe.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving, whether you’re reading this during the holidays, or in the middle of Summer. Happy Thanksgiving, today, and every day.

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