Giving Thanks – The Art of Contentment

I know what I want to write – but how to write it without sounding like I’m complaining or subtly requesting pity…that’s the difficult part. That’s the last thing I want to elicit from you! I’m about to write out my thoughts, feelings, emotions – lack of contentment – sin. So don’t pity and don’t think for a moment that my expression of hurt, sadness, and loneliness, is a cry for anything except this: a request to read to the end, my conclusion of the matter.

Every year, we practice rhythms. The rhythm of changing seasons, moon phases, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual routines and practices. We celebrate birthdays, rites of passage, and holidays. And this year, this Thanksgiving, is no different. Every year, Brent and I look on as our closest friends leave town, and share their excitement with us of their upcoming visit with family, traditions, turkey dinners, etc. And every year, we try not to be sad, as we stay home alone, and Brent and I discuss whether or not we’re too emotionally drained or not to even bother purchasing and cooking a turkey dinner. This year, we’ve been so preoccupied with other life events that we didn’t find the time to even discuss the holiday, let alone purchase a turkey, until today – Thanksgiving Sunday – because I think we both dread the discussion – wallowing in exhaustion, anticipating a restful holiday Monday, knowing full well that once again, families will get together to visit, laugh, feast, watch football games, cousins play outside in the fallen leaves, and all enjoy more than their necessary helping of pie slices, before travelling home, content, happy, thankful.

It’s exhausting to practice the rhythm of trying not to be depressed on major holidays. It’s exhausting to try not to feel lonely. In years past, we have tried to focus on others instead of wallowing in self-pity – making big dinners and inviting over friends or people we knew that also wouldn’t be celebrating with family. Putting in that effort dulled the pain of not being near family, ourselves, and celebrating with them. And, of course, let’s not forget the practice of posting big, happy family photos on social media to remind the lonely people of what you have and they don’t. Ha! (Have I depressed you yet?) Sigh.

BUT….

I won’t allow it. I won’t allow loneliness or depression to take hold. I won’t be jealous of friends and family from a distance. I won’t wallow in self-pity. I won’t allow any of those things for many reasons, but the main one is this – I won’t allow myself to be that shallow and immature and unChristlike.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do about it: I will choose to practice the rhythm of thankfulness. I will choose to focus on what this holiday is about. I will choose to: count my blessings one by one – because, of those, I have SO many. How unbelievably selfish it is to take our health for granted and not even put a thought or prayer to those in a hospital or on their death bed with no loved ones nearby? How unbelievably selfish it is to sit in our warm, furnished home that is bright with electricity, and pumping heat on this cold, autumn day, and not give a thought or prayer to those who are homeless – or refugees? And how unbelievably poor-spirited and ungrateful am I to covet the joy of others and not give a thought or prayer of thanksgiving to Christ for the blessing and joy and gift of my salvation??

My despair, my sadness, my jealousy…they are symptoms of much deeper sins – discontentment and ungratefulness.

The cure? The rhythm and practice of giving thanks. Because it is only when we CHOOSE to be thankful for what we have – that is when we become content. Just as the rhythms of creation and our lives occur, may I encourage you, (as I also preach to myself here), to carve out time, often, to practice the rhythm of giving thanks and to count your blessings – naming them one by one. Having a big family get-together with a feast? Thank God for that. Have your health? Thank God for that. Have a warm home? Thank God for that. Have the grace of God on your life and a personal relationship with Him? Thank God for that! And while you’re thanking God for those things, I’ll be doing the same – for the health of my family, for our home, our vehicles, food in the pantry, clothing to wear, friends and family who love us, and mostly – for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross…for me. For His death. For my life. For His grace.

When I’m thankful – I need and want nothing more.

When I’m thankful – I am filled with joy.

If you’re like me and need a place to start on your journey of giving thanks, read any book of the Bible that the Apostle Paul wrote. It’s actually very difficult to find a book he penned without discovering at least one statement of his choice to be thankful. I find it only appropriate to share his words:

“…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” – Phil. 4:11-12

“At the moment I have all I need – and more! … And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:18-19

“Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thess. 5:18

I hope this post did not elicit any feelings of pity or anything like that on your part. I simply wanted to share my musings on this specific holiday. I hope that by reading this, you were reminded of your many blessings and that thankfulness and contentment are choices we make. They are specific attitudes which give us the power to either wallow in our sin or to live joyfully. If anything, this holiday makes me long for the joy of a future feast beyond my wildest imagination, beside all of my family in Christ, and in the presence of Jesus Himself, that He’s prepared for us in heaven. And you can bet, that feast will definitely be filled with joy and thanksgiving, simply because of His presence. “Oh! What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

I’ll simply close with the words from a children’s song from VeggieTales. May it bring you joy…and thanksgiving.

“I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground,
For His love that’s all around,
That’s why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I’m glad for what I have,
That’s an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
‘Cause He listens to my prayers,
That’s why I say thanks every day!”

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