Each year, numerous people endure an incredibly painful Thanksgiving. Some battle loneliness. Others anxiety related to severe financial challenges. Some of you may be grieving loved ones lost, relationships shattered, or trust broken. And deep in your soul, you might be crying out to God, asking, “Are You truly enough, even in this?”
If so, I hope this weeks Faith Over Fear podcast episode encourages you.
As you consider Thanksgiving, are you filled with joyful anticipation, anxiety, or a mixture of both? Are your thoughts of the special moments and memories you’ll share accompanied by reminders of past conflicts? We probably all have that one family member who seems adept at pricking at our insecurities, challenging our peace, and poking at our emotional bruises.
In response, it’s easy to self-protect, to pull away, or to fight back. And while some measure of self-protection may in fact be wise*, every tense encounter provides an opportunity and reminder to seek God’s heart and perspective, and then to “power up.”
Years ago, someone I interacted with seemed angered by me and everything for which I stood, only this individual never told me this directly. Instead, after each encounter, she’d flood social media with posts regarding the hypocrisy or “hatred” displayed by Christ-followers–whether or not we’d talked religion or discussed personal beliefs. Feeling as if this person was passive-aggressively attacking me, I shared my hurt with a mentor, who replied, “She’s not fighting with you. She’s wrestling with God.”
Her words reminded me of Ephesians 6:12-13, which states,
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Our struggle–every and any struggle–is not ultimately about us. Yes, our actions and reactions do affect others, but even those have a spiritual root. We, and everyone we encounter, is either living yielded to Christ or in opposition to Him. They’re (and we’re) either living in then living out His love and grace or we’re giving in to self-obsession.
As Scripture states in Galatians 5:19-26:
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
This reminds me to always examine my heart first. Which portion of that passage do I most resemble–the person who is easily offended, who feeds my bitterness, and easily loses my temper, or the one who speaks with gentleness, kindness, grace, and self-control?
If the former, God doesn’t want me to live in condemnation. Instead, He calls me to lean deeper into His grace. To prayerfully invite Him to search my soul for places where His love and grace, the only gifts with the power to transforming me in the core of my being, haven’t reached so that He can heal every wound, expel every lie, and illuminate every lurking shadow with His glorious light.
A light that will push back the darkness, within me and also around me.
This is a glorious, beautiful truth. Every time a Christ-follower enters a room, she carries with her the light of Christ-simply through her presence. She changes the dynamics, on a supernaturally spiritual level, whether she speaks or remains silent.
She amplifies that light, however, and becomes a strategic weapon against the evil seeking to devour her, the person who seems so opposed to her, and the joy and peace God wants for us, when she remains in step with His Spirit.
That’s our only assignment. God doesn’t ask us to change people’s minds or to convert their thinking. That’s His job, one He’s quite capable of, by the way. Nor do we need to defend ourselves. That’s His role as well, and in Christ, we have nothing to prove.
What God does invite us to do, however, is to live so filled with Him, with His love and acceptance and grace, that every precious gift Christ pours into our souls gushes from us and onto others.
Which brings me back to Ephesians 6:12-13, remembering that the struggle within us stems from the same over-arching battle. Scripture makes it clear, you and I have an enemy to our souls, and his desire is to tarnish and destroy everything good God created and to thwart God’s very good plans. But Christ is calling us to life. To hope. To healing and to freedom.
This means, whenever we resist Him, whether that means speaking up when He tells us to remain silent or remaining silent when He tells us to speak up, or plunging ahead when He asks us to quietly sit with Him, we are slipping toward increased dysfunction. Whenever we follow His lead, however, pushing past surface-level reactions to prayerfully evaluate what lies beneath those displayed by us and others and to accept His grace in those areas, we actively progress toward increased health, freedom, and vibrant life.
Let’s talk about this! As you anticipate Thanksgiving, are you doing so with joy, angst, or a bit of both? How is God speaking to you in regard to this? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
*Please note: I am not encouraging people to engage with abusive people. There are times when God does indeed encourage us to distance ourselves from others. I don’t know your story, your heart, or your hurts, but God does. Seek His guidance, because He knows the perfect, healthiest action for every scenario.
As you prepare for the holidays, specifically if they stir anxiety within you, I encourage you to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on fighting anxiety through praise.
Fighting Anxiety and Fear Through Praise (with Becky Harling) – Ep. 129 –
Faith Over Fear
When battling anxiety, fear, and depression, countless people have turned to the Psalms for comfort. In them, we read raw and honest emotion, soul-deep prayers, and about a God who sees, cares, and has the power to lead us to greater freedom. While fighting cancer, guest Becky Harling learned to use praise, often guided by what she read in the psalms, to fight her fear and increase her peace. In this episode, she shared her experiences and the Bible study God prompted her to write: The Extraordinary Power of Praise: A 6-Week Study of the Psalms for the Anxious Heart. (Scroll down to find the group discussion questions)Find Becky Harling at: https://beckyharling.com/https://www.instagram.com/beckyharling/https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministriesFind Jennifer Slattery at:http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comhttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083247680572Find Wholly Loved, at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1.What resonated with you most in today’s episode?2.What Bible passages do you turn when you feel anxious or afraid?3.How does (or can) praising God in difficult seasons help to decrease our anxiety and increase our peace?4.What are some ways you remember God’s goodness and love in hard or frightening times?5.Why is important to understand God’s heart for us when we feel afraid—that He responds to us in love, not anger or frustration?6.How can prayer deepen your intimacy with Christ?7.How can memorizing Scripture help you fight anxiety and fear?8.What is one action step God might be asking you to take, having listened to this podcast episode? Discover more Christian podcasts at lifeaudio.com and inquire about advertising opportunities at lifeaudio.com/contact-us.
We’ve all probably allowed ourselves to get so caught up in the event of a thing that we’ve lost sight of that thing all together. I have. When I do, my stress climbs and my attitude tanks. But then God gently helps me shift my priorities back where they should be. Amazingly, when I do, my attitude and inner tranquility follow. I’ve learned, no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving and Christmas will inevitably be imperfect. But I’m also learning, it’s often the imperfections that make those unscripted moments so beautiful.
If you’re beginning to feel the stress of the holidays, or preemptively want to avoid this, I think you’ll find my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post encouraging, and you’ll want to grab a copy of the devotional she contributed to, mentioned at the end.
The turkey was frozen. My mother and I flopped it in the sink and ran warm water over the cold, hard, unappetizing bird. This was the second year in a row this fiasco had happened. All we wanted was the thanksgiving meal magazines touted. Twice baked mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans and bacon with caramelized onion and a golden brown cooked turkey. So maybe our expectations were a little high. But they pointed to an even bigger problem.
Our anxiety was just as high as our expectations.
It’s not bad to want to serve our families well, but when we make perfection our goal we rarely do so with happy hearts. My mom and I grew stressed, there seemed insufficient time or oven space to get everything done in my little galley kitchen. Meanwhile I have no memory of what my kids were doing while I was busy worrying about a thawing turkey.
So I hold tight to Psalm 17:1 ESV during the holidays which reminds us, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.”
There are so many instances this is true, but especially when we prepare for big gatherings. I’ve learned it’s better to have store bought stuffing than batches of Pinterest worthy meals if it means I have more time, joy, and peace with the people I love.
But it’s hard to give up the idyllic version of Thanksgiving we have in our minds. How do we stop competing with the invisible and improbable version of our perfect holiday and accept the reality of our time and emotional constraints?
For me, it means squashing my pride and remembering the grace I have in Jesus. He doesn’t expect us to serve perfectly. He never called us to nail the most golden pie crust or win an award for cleanest house. He commands us to love others well with the strength He provides.
When we serve others, we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:10-12, ESV).
Boy do I want to be filled with His glorious might, endurance, patience, and joy this season! I’m not sure if that is what this passage teaches and I don’t have time right now to really dig in to check. Sorry! Can we just cut that part out and use this: When we focus on Jesus, He changes our stressed out minds to servant hearts. We serve and love better when we lean on and are energized by Him.
This reminds me to focus on pleasing Jesus because He will lead me to peace, not anxiety.
The stress and emotions of the holidays are real, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by meals and chaos. We can choose instead to be overwhelmed by the provision and grace of Christ. Focus your heart on Him this season and let go of the idea of perfection, you will experience His peace and joy no matter your circumstances, even if you turkey is frozen.
Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to prioritize precious moments over expectations for perfection? When you sense yourself prioritizing details over people, what helps you to regain a proper perspective? Share your thoughts, tips, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.
Get to know Andrea!
Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for WhollyLoved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus. Visit her on her blog and follow her on Facebook.
Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace:
his holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.
Sometimes I approach Thanksgiving with a bit of a hum-bug spirit, thinking of all the to-dos and obligations. Other times, like this year, I toss those to-dos and self-imposed expectations aside to simply be. To enjoy time with family, the colors of fall, the smell of roasting turkey.
This year feels especially significant as it’s our daughter’s first Thanksgiving home, post college. Oh, how we’ve missed her, which might seem strange, considering she’s only 45 minutes away, and comes home quite often. But if you’re a parent, you understand. Our hearts hold tight to those precious gifts God once placed firmly in our hands. Today my sweet friend and fellow ACFW writer Ginger Solomon tells us about a special Thanksgiving blessing she received one year. As you read her post, think of your family and the love that holds it together. Or, if family is tough, think of the close relationships God has developed in your life. And hold tight to them. Invest in them. And thank God for them
A Special Thanksgiving Blessing by Ginger Solomon
On this day twenty-two years ago–well, technically yesterday, but it was Thanksgiving Day that year—I delivered a turkey of my own at 2:19 in the morning. My turkey weighed 9 lbs and measured twenty-two
inches long. He’s a big boy now, or rather a man, growing to a pretty tall 6’5”.
Every year, I give thanks for that child and the six others God has blessed me with.
Psalm 127:4-5 says, “Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” (NLT) Well, I’m not a young man, but I still feel blessed.
Many people thought I was crazy after I announced pregnancies four through seven. I mean really, didn’t I know what caused that? Yes, people did have the audacity to ask those types questions. Most times I just smiled and ignored them.
Sometimes when I took them all to the store with me, which I did have to do for a while—my oldest was thirteen when the baby was born—I’d get odd looks, or a my-you-have-your-hands-full.
But even though I had some tough days—as most moms do—I wouldn’t trade any one of them for the world. They are unique individuals and will bless society with their gifts and abilities.
My first child (24) will graduate from nursing school with an RN next month. Child two (22)—mentioned above—graduates in May with a BS in Engineering(Computer). Child number three (18) just started college, aiming for a BS in Engineering(Mechanical). Child number four (girl #1; 17) will graduate high school in May. She wants to be a children’s pastor. Children five through seven (15, 13, & 11) don’t quite know what they want to do yet, but whatever it is, I’m ready to be amazed by God.
So this Thanksgiving as you wipe dirty hands and faces, worry about spilled something, struggle with getting a child to bed because he or she ate too much dessert, be thankful. That child will grow up and teach you much about trusting God.
And if you don’t have a child of your own, or yours are grown, help a mom out when she looks a little frazzled. Carry her groceries. Wipe a face. Hold a hand. Clean up a spill. If you’re a stranger, offer to push her cart while she carries the baby or consoles the toddler. Pay for her groceries, her lunch, or just a can of soda.
Even if all you can offer is a smile, she will be grateful that you’re not frowning at her because her child is having a bad day.
I pray blessings on your family from our family. Happy Thanksgiving.
Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest four, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for two blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and is a fan of Once Upon a Time and Dr. Who.
Let’s talk about this. What’s your Thanksgiving and Christmas look like? Will you have family close? For those who have strained family relationships or are mourning the loss of loved ones, I’m sorry. That’s tough. I hope you have a strong support group around you to help you enjoy this time. I hope you’ll find a way to make Thanksgiving special, however that looks for you. For those who will get to spend time with their loves ones, don’t let the to-dos take away from the must-dos of showing love, spending time, sharing laughter… eating massive quantities of pumpkin pie. With a decaf, almond milk latte, of course!
Sometimes gratitude pours from us, unbidden. Other times it’s an act of will; a determination to praise God in the hard and sad. Either way, God is worthy of our praise and worship. And regardless of what we’re going through, I believe cultivating a grateful heart makes life sweeter.
November is the month of giving thanks, but in today’s guest blog post Jodie Wolfe explains that thankfulness should be a part of our everyday lives. As you are reading don’t forget all the reasons you have to be thankful, this month and everyday.
A Thankful Heart by Jodie Wolfe
Can you believe it’s only a week until Thanksgiving? I don’t know about you, but this year has been flying by for me. Seeing Thanksgiving photos make me in the mood for a succulent feast. Of course I’ll be the one cooking it.
Thankfulness seems to go hand-in-hand with this month. As my boys were growing up we had a family tradition each Thanksgiving where we listed our praises from the following year. We kept a journal and recorded our appreciation so we could re-read it.
Being thankful doesn’t have to be limited to a certain holiday or time of year. In fact, according to this Bible verse, anytime is a good time to be thankful. I’ve found the more I choose to be thankful, the more I’m aware of God’s many blessings He pours out each day.
Along with choosing to be thankful, don’t be surprised if you get thrown into situations which challenge your resolve. Keep firm in your decision. Don’t be swayed or falter.
Giving thanks each day is something you won’t regret. The more you do it the easier it is. Now is a good time to start having a thankful heart.
JodieWolfe was bit by the writing bug as a young girl after reading and watching Little House on the Prairie. She loves writing stories about feisty heroines and strong, godly heroes. The power of story to influence lives and change hearts is what motivates her to weave tales that tell of the Savior’s faithfulness and forgiveness. Jodie is a columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine and had a devotion featured on Christian Devotions. She achieved semi-finalist status in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest and 3rd place in the 2015 Novel Beginnings at St. David’s Christian Writer’s Conference. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency.
Let’s talk about this! A couple years, after reading a verse I couldn’t for the life of me find this morning, I started something similar to what Jodie in our home. The verse talked about how God was revealed in all He’s done, and this really struck me–the idea that we could come to know God better, His heart, character, and love, by staying alert to His hand each day. So, at dinner, our family talked about something God had done that day and also something He’d done in our past, discussing what that event or God-moment revealed about Him. It was such a sweet time of really reflecting on the goodness of Christ and of bonding as a family.
Perhaps start a similar tradition in your home this Thanksgiving, one that, like Jodie suggested, extends beyond the holiday season.
Have you paused to count your blessings, and if so, what were the results? What are some ways you can create an atmosphere of praise and gratitude in your home this holiday season? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. Because we can all learn from each other!
It’s easy to praise God when all is going well, but what about when life turns upside down? When we lived in Louisiana, we went through a period of unemployment that left us scrambling to sell our home before landing in debt. One afternoon as I sat in my van pouring my heart out to God, He asked me, “Do you love me now?” Basically, He asked me if my love was dependent on what He could or would do for me. Would I be a fair-weather Christian looking for a spiritual Genie or was I looking for a true, lasting, intimate relationship?
Thousands of years ago, Noah faced a similar choice. When the world as he knew it fell apart, would he still honor God, or would he choose to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, surrendering all to the Giver of life.
I stumbled upon today’s post, written by my dear friend and debut novelist, Jodie Bailey, when God was showing me what it meant to live a life of gratitude and praise. I hope you are blessed and challenged, like I was, by it.
Genesis 6:9 (GWT)–This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah had God’s approval and was a man of integrity among the people of his time. He walked with God.
It’s hard to believe, but the people of Noah’s time were even more depraved than people today. In fact, among the people of the earth, Noah (and likely those in his family) were the only ones who were considered to have integrity. That’s an appalling thing to think about, isn’t it? That in the entire world, only one person walked with God?
Makes our walk seem a little bit easier, doesn’t it? It’s easy to watch the news and lament. I’ve done it many times, so many times that I’ve essentially quit watching the news. (I read it elsewhere. Being uninformed is worse than being angry.) No matter how bad it is right now, at least we have others to pray with and to be there for us. I’ve seen it in the most amazing way over the past month or so, the way believers rally around each other in prayer even when they don’t know what they’re praying for exactly. Who did Noah have to turn to?
Know the other thing? We can’t complain about the way things are. You don’t hear Noah complaining. And he had every reason. The thing is, we can still take action. We can still band together against the wrong in the world. God has us here at this time for a reason. And trust me, it’s not to gripe about the way things are. It’s to change them. Shouldn’t our voices be heard now more than ever? Noah had no one to stand with him. We have countless others. Why do we remain silent? What would happen if we all spoke truth instead of sitting back and watching it happen?
Okay, so my toes hurt. I’m talking about me here. I know I don’t speak out near enough. It’s time to use our voices more, don’t you think?
Jodie Bailey’s first novel, Freefall, releases in November 2012. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She teaches middle school and lives in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. Visit her online.
Let’s talk about this. How might trials and difficulties reveal the depths of your faith? And how do our actions and reactions, both positive and negative, affect our witness? Do you have any stories you can share of a time when God turned a painful time into a blessing or an opportunity to serve?