Holidays serve a valuable purpose beyond the obvious. As a place marker in time they can be a beacon to remind us how things were as compared to how things are.
I make note of the obvious. Becca had to come home from grad school in Pittsburgh to complete the semester remotely. Ian moves out of the dorms permanently, giving up his coveted independence. Mother watches out her window in Pennsylvania, the last remaining connection to the outside world since her residence has locked down tightly again. The patriarch, my Daddy painfully absent, will not say the blessing at the large thanksgiving table full of cousins and in-laws, and mask-less laughter, love and warmth. The loss for my family during 2020 is palpable. And probably for your family too.
No doubt about it, this year has been chock full of yuck — cancellations, sickness, division and hardship. But what a shame if thanksgiving 2020 was only remembered for the heartache. The truth is, the goodness of God is still around, even if it may be harder to find.
But it begs the question, why bother? Why be grateful especially if it’s hard to do so. C’mon, 2020 is already a bust. Thanksgivings are cancelled all over our great nation, so lets bypass the hallowed tradition all together, including our gratitude.
Why be grateful? Because, for starters the Bible says so. And when it says so, its because it knows so. In other words, as with any instruction found in scripture, we can be certain it’s in our best interest to embrace its truth.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
A Grateful life is powerful.
Consider some scientific evidence. Did you know that God designed our bodies in such a way that a grateful heart results in physiological benefits — lower blood pressure, a lower heart rate, increased feel good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Besides that, research shows that gratitude is associated with all kinds of great things including happiness, better health, productivity, fewer aches and pains, alertness, determination, increased generosity, richer relationships, greater empathy, better sleep, improved self-esteem, and a sense of contentment. That’s a lot of upside.
One of the worst consequences of this sustained pandemic is the fact that conditions are ripe for the enemy to get a foothold. A relentless virus has stirred up fear and kept us isolated. But then throw in some easy-to-come-by ingratitude and it’s no wonder we’re on the brink.
In my view, discontentment or lack of gratitude, is the single greatest threat to our peace. Because it negates His presence, it also clouds our perspective. It may seem inconsequential, but as step one on a slippery slope, it’s deadly.
Satan’s strategy is simple yet insidious. If he can keep us from being grateful, he’ll then go after our joy. And if he can steal our joy, he can sap our strength. No wonder discontentment makes us feel hopeless, weak and impotent. Do you see it? Gratitude is our superpower, and the enemy knows it.
Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
As I anticipate Thanksgiving I’m caught between praying and complaining. One minute, I’m thankful and the next I fret that gratitude means settling for a normal that stinks.
A BIG ask
The Holy Spirit whispered conviction. And, to be honest, it feels like a BIG ask. “Be grateful and find contentment in this hard season, no matter how long it lasts.” Wait, what?
A Welcome Invitation
Among its definitions, contentment means “ease of mind.” Ease. Of. Mind. I swirled the words around allowing them to claim space. Eventually, eager to settle on solid ground, I decided that ease of mind sounds a whole lot like peace and I wanted it. The moment I made that decision, contentment no longer felt like a restraining order. Rather, contentment was a welcome invitation to breathe — to exhale the frustration of all that can’t be so I can inhale the beauty of what still is.
So let’s try this again.
Thanksgiving 2020 with Gratitude
Becca, my wanderlust daughter while grounded gets to spend a rare two months with us in Albuquerque. Because she likes to cook we’re eating better and with her home for this extended time, her brother feels normal. Our time together as a nucleus family feels almost ordained. Ian, thanks in part to online learning and some extra support, will graduate this December, an achievement never thought possible. Without any time pressure, together we creatively strategize his next chapter.
With some simple redecoration, mother’s window is no longer blocked by her armoire. She loves the pastime of looking outside to watch the birds, reminded that she has more value than they. (Matthew 6:26) The patriarch, has the best seat in the house and even though his large family is scattered, he remains the tie that binds and we rejoice knowing we’ll see him again.
Give it a try
While Discontentment may be the drum beat of 2020, we don’t have to march along.
It’s through the lens of gratitude that we find contentment. Gratitude isn’t a sign that we’re settling for less than God’s best; it’s the lens that helps us see God’s best right in front of us.
Happy Thanksgiving, Debbie Hucke