By Cally Logan, Crosswalk.com
2020 has proved a challenging and tedious year. For many, storms of illness, financial difficulty, and depression have overwhelmingly swept upon once-peaceful lives.
As we approach the holidays it can be easy to feel hopeless, anxious, or even bitter, however we can choose to not fall prey to these feelings.
We can partner with God to give thanks, despite the circumstances this Thanksgiving.
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1. Authentic Connection
Quarantines and social distancing have prohibited many from joining with family and close friends for nearly a year, and as Thanksgiving approaches that will likely remain the case for many.
This Thanksgiving will look different around the dining room table, but connection can still occur. Video chats and phone calls will be a resource we utilize well this Thanksgiving, but real connection can still occur from such unlikely platforms.
Perhaps gratitude can be found in using these options, and we can have authentic communications of where we all are in heart and mind. This is something to be thankful for, to have exchanges beyond the weather or superficialities, but to dive deeper into outlooks.
We are all struggling, but we are not struggling alone.
CS Lewis once observed, “It is when two persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fubmlings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision and it is then that friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”
Open communication can be something to be grateful for, not to continue to dig deeper into a pit of despair, but to help one another up in compassion and encouragement through authentic connection. It is through authentic connection that we realize we do not fight these fleeting hardships alone.
Check out these great ideas to make the most of your time together: 7 Thanksgiving Traditions That Will Work over Zoom Too!
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2. Faithful Perspective
Perspective is key in finding joy despite the circumstances this Thanksgiving.
Our perspective on events is much like wearing a pair of glasses. A certain lens can help us see the blur of fear, unknown things approaching or confusion, where another lens can provide clarity.
Let us choose to put on the lens and perspective that comes from the Lord, remembering that He brings all things, not just some, together for good (Romans 8:28). Let us also put on the perspective that some of the difficulties we face now perhaps are growing us in new and exciting ways. As scary as they look now, we have no idea what kind of good God is spinning out of it.
Romans 5:4 reminds us that, “even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit abiding in us!” (The Passion Translation).
As nightmares unfold, perspective can be a lovely hand to hold. We can choose to partner with the Lord for His perspective that good is coming despite circumstances.
What has more time spent alone taught you? How can we evaluate these things and come back to Him with a grateful heart for such revelations or new ideas?
A shift in perspective can take us from complacency to content.
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3. Recall Former Victories
Recalling the past can help us in the present.
Hindsight is 2020, and perhaps that is what is needed in 2020, to recall His faithfulness in the past.
The hopelessness felt now is not the first time such feelings have arisen, yet we stand enduringly. When we list and recount the victories God has seen us through we can rest that He is still on the Throne today, and He is still working.
Many times, the Israelites would remind themselves of the banners of victory that the Lord had won for them when things seemed bleak. In Joshua 4, the Nation of Israel stood at the banks of the Jordan River, waiting for it to part. The Lord parted the River and they walked on dry land to the other side, but before moving forward they took a very important step for the future.
They erected twelve stones, each representing a tribe of Israel, to remind them of the faithfulness of the Lord. They did this in order to recall His faithfulness in the future to come.
The same God Who saw them through trials in the past would see them through the trials to come. Perhaps create a list of the hardships turned hallelujahs you have seen in the past, and then begin to thank God for the work He is doing behind the scenes.
Do not discount the faith He is building in you during this time either, for through these hard times He is revealing more of the character being born in you. Birth is painful, but it results in new life.
Perhaps these hardships are birthing a new vibrancy of life for you.
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4. All the Small Things
More than ever all the small things have become bigger.
From eating in a restaurant to seeing a movie, to physically being able to hug a friend we no longer discount the small aspects of life that were once so accessible.
2020 has shifted us to recognize those small things, and the large impact they have.
Even if we cannot enjoy a hug from a loved one, or going to see a weekend movie in a theater, we can take note of the small things. We can rejoice and be grateful for food to eat, for a warm abode, or for the breath in our lungs. We can realize that these small little things we did not even notice are in fact blessings!
Listing five to ten things in the morning can help us begin the day with a heart of appreciation. Even enough toothpaste for the day is something to smile about, something to praise God for.
One of the symbols frequently written about in the Old Testament is the rotem bush. It's a bush found in the desert that symbolizes the idea of just enough shade to get you from where you are to your next destination in the desert. God gives us these rotem bushes to show us he never leaves us in the desert and that his goodness can be found in the worst of circumstances.
Life does not need to be completely perfect for us to find something to smile about. When we appreciate the smaller things, we also can then rejoice even more in the big things when they come.
Life deserves more celebration, for the great and the small.
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Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, and perhaps being thankful comes from finding Shalom in all times.
When we partner with the Holy Spirit and invite Him to be our Shalom, we are partnering with the greatest hope we can to flood us with peace even in events that strive to rid us of our peace.
Shalom in God guides us into a happy heart, for in His peace we can find rest. Allowing Him to be our Shalom also assist in pure thankfulness, for there is no other force or power in the Universe than can truly satisfy our hearts in such a grand peace as the Holy Spirit can.
That reminder will bring us more richly into relationship with Him, with reminders of His love, and reminders of all we have to stand grateful for. We simply need to quiet ourselves in a deep breath and open our hearts to Him, for He desires to be our home and our peace.
It can be so difficult to find Shalom in the midst of all of the stress of the holidays. But, it is possible. Isaiah 26:3 tells us "You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You."
Be intentional about planning time for just you and God, before all the family, all the cooking, and all the chaos. Remind yourself of all the myriad of reasons you have to trust in God--and then let go and enjoy yourself!
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6. A New Tomorrow
Hope for the days to come is something to stand thankful for when we feel the strain of circumstances now as well.
Each day holds new mercies, new discoveries, and new hope.
Psalm 100:4 inspires us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
His faithfulness is not limited to a single generation or time or year, and we can step into His courts thanking Him for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do.
Dream with God for all the possibilities of what could be and take advantage of the joy that will come now, rejoice that He has not forgotten us, rejoice that so much good is coming, and rejoice that there are adventures to live and jovial tears coupled with glad hearts to come.
Partner with Him now to build, work, or strive towards these things to come as well. Perhaps He is developing in you a new skill, hobby, or work during this time of quarantines and stillness.
Rejoice with Him in what He is building, and work with Him to step into the fullness that can result. The most surprising glories can come from life’s unexpected times.
Thank You for this time. Thank You for choosing us for such a time as this, and for allowing us to be alive during this age. Lord, help us not fall prey to the attacks of the enemy through anxiety, depression, or despair. Help us to partner with Your Holy Spirit to step into the joy, victory, and goodness You have for us. Grow in us a new hope, a new spirit, a new season in which we rejoice despite all we see. We know that the dawn will come, but Lord until it does we thank You for abiding with us in the dark. We thank You for all You are doing, all you have done, and all You will do. Help us find joy this Thanksgiving and perhaps make this a Thanksgiving where food is not the centerpiece, rather, genuine praise for You is the most remarkable aspect of the day.
In Jesus name we pray.
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