It’s about that time again. Holiday season is upon us with Thanksgiving first, then Christmas, and lastly New Years Day. We think the holidays should be a season of joy. Yet that’s not always the case.*
Somehow our happy holidays has become the busy holidays and perhaps the frustrated holidays. Add to it a consumeristic culture that appears more narcissistic every year, and there’s fertile ground for a lot of unhappiness and ungrateful whining as well as the yearly shopper who gets injured by other shoppers pushing people around in order to get that special sale item.
Rather than being thankful for what we do have, we seem to live in a culture that likes to complain a lot, cry foul if we don’t get our way, and what not. So this is an opportunity for us who have received new life in Jesus, whom we follow, to exemplify a life of gratitude. We might begin with a reminder that we are mere mortals, created by the living God, who have become sinners. So any notion that we deserve anything or have earned anything is vain. Everything we have and receive is blessing from God. Therefore we should heed the Apostle Paul’s instruction, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:16-18, NIV).
How then do we develop a spirit of rejoicing and thanksgiving? We begin with prayer, as Paul encourages us to do. It’s hard to dwell in a grumbling spirit of entitlement and morose when praying to God. Yet it might be helpful also to frame the context we pray in so that we can count our many blessings and see what the Lord has done.
So I have three suggestions that might help us learn to rejoice and give thanks in prayer more as we live with daily gratitude.
- Take a daily inventory of the many ways God has blessed us. Whether we write in a journal or just make a mental map of our daily blessings, we become blessed by simply taking the time to recall our blessings. Such blessings include the seemingly mundane things in life such as having hot water to bathe or shower in, to the more extravagant gifts we receive such as a friend treating us to dinner. When we tally up our daily blessings, we realize how much we really have and how much we have to be thankful unto God for.
- Find one other person that we can serve everyday. In big and small gestures, serving others helps us see beyond our own little world. When serving others, we see the problems others face which many times are not our problems. That should help us to rejoice in what we do have rather than whining about what we don’t have.
- Give ourselves more time for rest. To some extent, grumpiness and unhappiness are a byproduct of being tired and stressed too. While that’s not surprising since we live in a very busy society, it shouldn’t be an excuse. Yet when we are tired and feeling very stressed, it becomes more difficult to rejoice and give thanks. So in such moments, we need to push pause on what we’re doing and take a break. Maybe that break is going for a short walk or maybe it’s just putting down the notebook, the business reports, or whatever it is we are working on and going to bed. A little extra sleep does wonders for a tired and stressed life. Then in the morning we can rejoice and give thanks for a new day with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the life we have in Christ.
On that note, let us rejoice with thanksgiving for the life we have, the hope of salvation in Christ!
* This post was originally published as an article of the same title in Connecting 28 (November 6, 2013), a biweekly publication of the Columbia Church of Christ.