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I remember the good old days when Thanksgiving sales did not start until early Friday morning.
But Black Friday is no more. Now, it seems, we should call Thanksgiving, “Black Thursday” when mainstream focus is on food, football, and fantastic deals. The largest sales end before midnight, and the weekend follows with lingering discounts and opportunities to spend more money.
It’s ironic. During Thanksgiving, when people should be happiest, they seem to become the most irritable. When we should be counting our blessings, we count our cash instead (and often spend more than we count). No wonder Americans get so stressed out.
So how can we stay thankful during Thanksgiving, and even all year long?
1. Cultivate Contentment
I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
Our culture focuses on consumption. It feeds on mankind’s innate desire to have more, and more, and more. Those shopping extravaganzas cater to the greed in all of us.
Furthermore, sometimes we are motivated to purchase random items for family and friends out of a false and potentially destructive motive – because I like to give. There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving, but when our giving drives us to discontentment and even into debt or unwise spending, we need to examine whether that giving is directed by God.
When giving originates from selfish motivations, on the basis that it makes us feel good, we will never be content. We will never be able to give away enough money or things to satiate those inner desires. Instead, we need to turn and give from God’s direction.
In addition, many of us feel embarrassed if we cannot give to our families at Christmastime. We feel rude or inconsiderate and believe the lie that failure to give material things means we are devoid of love. In order to avoid feeling that way, we spend frivolously on gifts for our friends and families. In true American fashion, we would rather spend ourselves into debt than lose face.
Our culture has created a terrible cycle that leads to discarding God’s wisdom and relishing in the worldly passions inside of ourselves. The danger of it is this: if we place our emotions in material things, we will never be content with the eternal love of God.
2. Choose Thankfulness
A major part of cultivating contentment is choosing to be thankful. We can choose our thoughts and we can determine our attitudes; we’ve been given the power through God to rule over our emotions. Here are three actions that will help you become accustomed to being thankful:
1. Focus on what you’ve received from God. Make a list if you need reminders. Take small bits of time each day to pause and thank God for what He has given you.
2. Give what you’ve receive from God. God’s provision to us is what we should use to spread to others. Sometimes, we need to shift our thinking to realize that we have more than enough.
3. Change your thinking and be transformed by God’s word. Read the Bible daily, and focus on the quality of what you’re reading. Ask yourself what God is speaking to you through His word.
3. Generously Give
In addition, focusing our thoughts and attention to helping the less fortunate fosters thanksgiving within our hearts. This isn’t giving a Thanksgiving card to our friends just because, but purpose driven giving directed by God. When we hear from God, obey, and give generously, we will be cheerful. And through cheerful giving we will harness the peace God has promised to provide. Concerning giving, Paul says this:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
When we think about how to bless others, we take our attention away from our problems. Notice, cheerful givers decide in advance to give. They make plans to give. If you know you want to bless others during the holidays, have you been saving throughout the year in order to be able to give these gifts?
More than that, if you are following Christ, are you planning or budgeting monies to be able to give as God directs you? This type of advance focus may allow us to bless our family and friends during the holiday season. And if the money’s not there, it will force us to be creative with personal gifts and with purchased trinkets that add value to the recipient’s life.
Once we gain proper perspective by focusing attention on others, we will live with contentment and more generosity as God continues to give us more of His Spirit. In addition, we can help generate within others gratitude to God resulting from our generous gifts.
The service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God (2 Corinthians 9:12 NIV).
Receive God’s Peace
If you cultivate contentment, choose thankfulness, and generously give, you will become more thankful for what God is doing in your life. Once you embody gratitude, you are in the position to receive God’s peace for your life:
Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Paul suggests our degree of thankfulness directly correlates with the amount of peace we receive from God. His peace will arrive in connection to our prayers of thanksgiving. But, we will never offer thanksgiving to God if we are discontent and focused upon ourselves.
Expressing gratitude to God is the key component to keeping the stress out of our minds. Without thankfulness, we will never grasp God’s peace in our lives.
Therefore, cultivate contentment by giving as God leads you. Prepare for God’s leading as you save to give when He calls you. Doing these three things will help you stay thankful throughout the holiday season. And in turn, you will spread thankfulness to others.
Brad Andres helps you understand the Bible and maximize your God-given potential for life. He is the author of The Scripture Reader’s Manifesto, a short eBook to help you fall in love (or back in love) with reading the Bible. Click here to get the eBook for free. For more of Brad’s thoughts you can check out his website BradAndres.com.