Maybe it’s cliché to talk about being thankful in November. Then again, with 2020 being so…2020, maybe it’s not.
With so many things happening that can make us angry and disgruntled, this might be the year we need Thanksgiving, and our reminder to be grateful for all we have and all we’ve been given, more than ever.
One thing about gratitude that I think is often missed is that thankfulness and gratitude are dependent characteristics – meaning that they require an object. One cannot be thankful into nothingness. Rather, being thankful requires someone or something to whom the gratitude is directed. To “be thankful” toward nothing is like playing catch with a wall.
Recently, I was struck by Ephesians 5 and how incredibly relevant it feels to my experience, and I hope the experience of many of you, in this recent season.
Ephesians 5:1-2, 15-21
5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…. [jump to verse 15]
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
This passage feels like a playbook to be our best in 2020 despite 2020…and stands in stark contrast to the way we are generally behaving as a society right now.
-We are commanded to be “imitators of God” in verse 1. Notice that it does not say “unless you’re having a challenging. day/week/month/year.” Do as God does – that is the goal and purpose of a Christ follower.
-In verse 2, we are reminded that what makes the work and love of Jesus so special is that Jesus was sacrificial; he sacrificed everything and that sacrifice is what demonstrated his love for others (for us).
-Verses 15 and 16 speak to how the “days are evil” and I can’t say that’s necessarily true but it kind of feels that way, doesn’t it? But more directly and poignantly, it tells us that we need to make the best use of our time and to walk wisely. Both of these seem particularly relevant to our Covidworld we find ourselves in. Distractions and escapism are abundant. Self-care quickly can become bad habits or worse.
-Verse 17 doubles down and says “don’t be foolish” and “know what the will of God is.” When rhythms and habits and typical things get stripped away, what we are left with is our relationship with God and his plan for our lives. Is that enough for you?
-We are warned in verse 18 not to get drunk on wine. All kidding aside, stress and unexpected change can lead to bad habits, including over-drinking. If this is a problem for you, or is becoming a problem for you, get help now! You can certainly call me, or reach out to a substance abuse hotline for help.
[National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255): This nationwide alcohol crisis hotline offers information, education, and hope to people with a drinking problem. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357): This 24-hour helpline is dedicated to preventing substance abuse.]
What to do next…
There are several warnings in the passage, but there are also some instructions about what to do next. So maybe, if we are struggling with any of these things – escapism, alcohol, distraction, and the like – the solutions are also identified in this passage.
-Verse 19 encourages followers of Jesus to speak to one another in hymns and spiritual songs. In a world with YouTube links, wouldn’t it be a blessing to send along a song to someone who could use some encouragement? That’s just one way we could participate in this idea.
-Verse 20 is so appropriate for this week. It calls us to be thankful. And not just thankful into the air, but to God and to people who have blessed us. Who have you thanked in your life lately? What have you thanked God for lately?
-And finally, the passage ends with the idea of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. We don’t submit to one another because the other person is more important, or because the other person is perfect. We submit to one another because Jesus is more important and because Jesus IS perfect, and he asks us to behave in this way!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you are safe and well. And I hope that as you face struggle and frustration and anger due to all the challenges of this year, that you look to Jesus and to his Word for the hope and healing you (and all of us) require. I hope you are thankful.
Lastly, I want to point out a couple of things that may encourage you as a parent or provide you with opportunity.
First, I hope you’ve already heard about our Drive-Through Nativity happening December 11 and 12.
Secondly, we hope you will join us for the Pray for Me Campaign again this year. Last year was a wonderful experience, and we hope to continue with more families and Prayer Partners than ever before! Pray for Me will launch mid-January, so be watching for more information coming soon.
Third, there is an excellent opportunity for parents of any age to hear from one of the best youth workers in the country, Tiger Mcluen at True Life Church in Rochester on January 6. Learn more and register by signing up HERE. And please note: this event will also be live-streamed for those interested in that.
Until the next Feast,