I’ve always liked the “holiday” season. With the coming of winter, the festive ways people adorn their homes and hearths, the abundance of food and friends gathered to give thanks, and a few weeks later give gifts in celebration of the Best Gift… it’s a great time of year, and it is upon us.
There are those around the world who don’t feel this way at all. Caught up in relationships where conflict and strife are abundant, tends to taint the festivities. Facing a newly diagnosed illness or disease will pretty much put a person in a dour mood, evident to anyone who engages them. Additionally, not everyone will have enough to eat on Thanksgiving, much less a Christmas Ham. For each person in one of these situations finding the merriment of the “holidays” is just like finding the Panda in this picture.
Yes, there is a Panda in this picture, and once you see it, you can never un-see it again.
This paradigm is also true for those who seek the real meaning of the “holidays.”
Because Thanksgiving is not about watching football on the “big” screen, or eating from a buffet fit for kings, to feed a family of five. Thanksgiving is about “giving thanks.” Right? And just like the image of the Panda, being truly thankful is elusive sometimes.
Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:17-18]
I realize you may think I’m doing the typical preacher platitude thing again. However, by quoting this verse, I’m NOT suggesting that you give “thanks” for whatever has robbed your “holiday” spirit this year. I’m saying this because I’m pretty sure, from personal experience, that this is not what Paul is teaching in this verse.
There is a big difference in being thankful in the middle of the stuff of life that attacks when you least expect it, versus being thankful “for the attack itself.” I’m suggesting that you consider it a joy, when God gets you through it, and act thankfully for God’s strength and power to deliver you, redeem you, and encourage you through it all.
I don’t thank God for everything. Not everything is “thanks” worthy. But what I do is, I thank God in everything I face. This verse also doesn’t say to put on your happy face, when you don’t really feel so happy.
Back to the Panda in the image for this article. If you haven’t found it yet, I’ll give you a clue. The Panda is the only one without a smile on its face. Why would he smile? The Panda is in this herd of snowmen. He’s probably feels a little out of place.
While all the snowmen merrily droll along, the Panda is out of its element, not happy, not joyful, and not thankful.
Even James isn’t saying be “thankful” [James 1:2-3] Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Joy is not necessarily a synonym for thankfulness. Joy is a separate attitude all its own, fueled by a knowledge that nothing in our lives escapes God’s notice. So I can be joyful in times of sorrow or loss, and in the middle of it all, I can be thankful for God’s love for me. I can know that I am His and He is mine.
You don’t have to wear the smiling mask all the time. You don’t have to be like the hundreds of smiling people who droll along through life, pretending everything is ok, when it isn’t.
However, we know what God’s will is for us.
- be thankful … IN (not for) … the life issues you face
- consider it joy … when you face these life issues
- pray without ceasing
Pray for what exactly?
God’s glory to fill the earth?
God’s kingdom to come soon?
God’s will to be done in your life?
Daily food supplements?
To have the strength to forgive others?
Deliverance from temptation?
Sure, all that; it’s what Jesus Himself taught us to pray [Matthew 6:9-13].
And when you pray, don’t just spew meaningless spiritual verbiage in God’s general direction.
Or in some way offer droll statements in an attempt to diffuse your own pain. Just be real, be genuine, be authentic as a true believer. Stand out among the others around you who wear a smiling mask while they merrily droll along without hope.
If you haven’t found it yet, look hard for the Panda. In that same way, through you prayers to God, while being thankful and joyful, look hard for God’s grace, and you will find it. Nothing in your life escapes God’s notice.