A Journey to Becoming a Woman of Faith

Thanksgiving Thoughts

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A wave of deep discouragement, sadness and fear found its way into my heart this past month. I wish I could deny this happened to me, a child of God, teacher of God’s word, devoted and dedicated believer, but it did. In fact this feeling was like a rip current, coming on strong, threatening to pull me under before I knew what happened! This feeling of dread and almost despair was real and raw, exposing a weakness in me that is not something I like to admit, and to be honest, I was a long way from having an attitude of thankfulness!

2020 has been like this for many of us. Over and over again we have come face to face with one example of the brokenness of our world after another. Besides the virus, I have two friends who are facing uncertain cancer diagnoses, another friend who tragically lost a beloved child, another who is reeling from a year of loss and others who are facing lay offs, devastating relational issues, wayward children, loneliness, emptiness and depression like they never have before. And on top of all this, we as a nation are facing the blistering reality that our nation is not united at all and many are fearful of the future, sinking into a crippling hopelessness.

What are we to do when we find ourselves here? You may be able to rise above all of the negative, but for me, it is not so easy. I think too much, and then those thoughts lead me down roads full of potholes! The problem is my thinking! I get into trouble and spiral into a dark place when I “think” about what is going on around me. In fact, I can get so focused on what is happening in the present tense that it clouds my future reality. Very often, my thoughts create scenarios in my head that are not based on facts and my version of “reality” gets distorted as I “think” too much. The bottom line is that when I choose to focus only on what is happening today, I can get discouraged, disillusioned and downright dysfunctional!

But, while the problem is my thinking, ironically, the answer is also my thinking! Learning to change our thinking is the simple yet complex solution to a mind that has gone off the rails! I think the apostle Paul may have struggled with his thinking at some point because he writes about this very issue in several of his epistles! The book of Philippians finds Paul in prison where he could have easily looked at his situation and gotten very depressed. None of us would blame him if he had settled into a state of hopelessness. His arrest was the result of his preaching of the gospel, and the government was out to persecute and prosecute Christians, so Paul was on very shaky ground. He had no idea if he would actually get out of prison, and so his “what ifs” were based on very real facts. But in that prison cell, Paul didn’t live in a place of despair. He, instead, resisted a negative mindset and pens an action plan for all of us who struggle with having “thankful” thinking!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil. 4: 6-8)

To get our thinking in order, it begins with surrender. We must start by turning it ALL over to Him. ALL the worries and anxieties of today become less when we pray. But, don’t miss the key verse “with thanksgiving”! As we take our problems, struggles, fears and pains to God, we need to come with a thankful heart. How can we be thankful when things are a mess of broken pieces? Remember where Paul is when he writes this encouragement? We come with THANKSGIVING as we acknowledge that He is a GOOD God! We recognize that although a situation may look bad from our perspective, He can make bad – good, wrong-right, shattered-whole.

Paul solidifies this truth about God by giving us the results of praying with a thankful heart – PEACE. A peace “which passes all understanding”. This means that we can not mentally comprehend what praying thankfully brings. In fact, this PEACE can not be explained, only experienced!

But also look at what PEACE has the power to do! Paul says, Peace will GUARD our hearts and MIND through Christ Jesus. “Guard” is a military term referring to protection from hostile invaders. We can all agree that very often our thoughts are our enemy! They can wreak havoc on our soul and cause us to live in a state of unrest and total despair. So, the answer is PEACE! Peace that comes as we PRAY with THANKSGIVING! PEACE from God protects our thought life and keeps our mind focused on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Yes, there are a lot of negative, depressing things in the world, but dwelling on those will get us nowhere, so let’s change directions!

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, let’s take our worries, fears, problems and pain to Him, thanking Him no matter what the circumstances and allow His PEACE to keep us from the cycle of toxic thoughts!

Thanks be to God who is able to “keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose THOUGHTS are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

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