New Focus Makes For A Great Thanksgiving

Thankful

On the fourth Thursday of November, millions of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with family, carving a turkey, and enjoying pumpkin pie. Some will even watch football!

But for many, the upcoming season is full of additional pressure. Family squabbles, extra financial expectations, and the busyness of the holidays make for so much stress and anxiety that it becomes hard to be thankful for anything. I am one such person. The holiday season usually causes me some extra distress and worry. This year, I'm hoping it will be different. I'm going to focus on three areas to help make my Thanksgiving great. In order to get the most out of the turkey day, try these three areas of focus to beat the holiday blues.

1—Focus on Contentment

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian believers, he was in serious trouble. Jailed for preaching the gospel, he spent days and nights imprisoned under the watchful gaze of Roman soldiers. Somehow though, he managed to remain content. The secret, he said, was found in God.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me

(Philippians 4:13)

Many people take this Bible verse out of context, thinking it applies to victory in sports, achievement in business, or success in life. Quite the opposite is true. For Paul, doing all things was a reference to being able to accept any circumstance, both good and bad. In the preceding verses he told his friends that he appreciated their recent financial help, even though he had been going without such provisions for a while. He said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

For Paul, it wasn't about being content only when he was provided for, it was about being content all the time—when he was living in abundance and when he was living in need.

This year, focus on being content more than being financially secure. Focus on what you have, rather than what you want. I know that can be difficult but according to the scriptures, you'll be able to find contentment through God's strength.

2—Focus on Others

If there is ever a time to take the focus off of ourselves and place it onto others it's during the holiday season. The genesis of Thanksgiving can be traced back to October 1621, when 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims feasted for three days following their first harvest. Granted, the relationship between the early settlers and Native Americans soon deteriorated. Even so, a template for serving others was created.

We all know that it can be hard to deal with the family drama that often accompanies the holidays. However, this year can be different. Rather than conjure up old arguments and resentment, why not go out of your way to say something nice to your relatives. Or, do you best to say nothing when that irritating cousin or uncle makes a belligerent statement just to stir up trouble. Remember the adage your mom used to say, “If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

If you don't plan to get along with family, how about turning your attention to the community? There are so many people who are in need during the holidays. Focus on lightening their load a bit by volunteering at your local shelter or food bank.

Instead of worrying about all of the entanglements that Thanksgiving can bring, decide to rise above the fray and do more for others. Plus, by putting others first you will be modeling the very attitude of Christ. Here's what the Apostle Paul wrote about it,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… 

(Philippians 2:3-5)

3—Focus on Freedom

It wasn't until the close of the Civil War that Thanksgiving became a fixed part of our national heritage. Prior to that, Thanksgiving was celebrated off an on and in many different ways. Individual states recognized various thanksgiving feasts and celebrations, but at different times during the fall season.

However, at the conclusion of America's Civil War, Lincoln, who was bolstered by the support from his cabinet and many citizens, wrote a proclamation of Thanksgiving that was as bold as it was eloquent. Among the prose of the document is the following lines:

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity…peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” -Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thanksgiving is a way for Americans to celebrate unity and freedom. Our country needs this now more than ever. Lincoln acknowledged the need for people to say thank you to God for providing the costly freedom that was gained through a terrible war.

In the same way, we have an opportunity to say thank you for our freedom as well. Of course, for our national freedom, but also for our spiritual freedom. Each and every day we awaken in a free land and free from guilt. In Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

So how will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? With food, family, and football? I know that I will. But I will also take some time to change my focus as well. To focus on contentment for all that I have and even the things that I do not have. I will focus on others too—more than usual, and know that following the model of Christ will create contentment and thankfulness in me and in others. I will focus on freedom and say thank you for the freedom to speak my mind, to disagree with others, and the liberty that was purchased by so many men and women who fought for us.

And lastly, thank you to Jesus for my spiritual freedom from guilt and sin. That is a lot to be thankful for.

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