One of my biggest pet peeves is decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I did it once back in college when my friend Tiffany and I roomed together. Since we just couldn’t wait for Christmas, our decorations were up in early November. All I remember was enjoying the decorations…for the first few weeks. By the time Christmas got here, the novelty had ended. Of course, I don’t even remember Thanksgiving that year. Ever since then I made an unwritten rule that I’d never decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving.
More important than when we choose to decorate for Christmas, many of us skip thanksgiving in another way.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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)
Similar to the temptation to mentally skip over Thanksgiving and head straight to Christmas, for most of my life I’ve skipped over thanksgiving in this verse. I went straight from prayer to peace and wondered why the peace never seemed to come. I rationalized it was because I hadn’t gotten my anxiety under control.
Now, I know that the real problem was skipping thanksgiving.
About a year ago, I read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book Choosing Gratitude. Of the many things I learned in that book, one was giving thanks no mater my circumstances. Giving thanks in the midst of them. Over this past year I found myself renewing my mind to see the thankful opportunities all around me, in the good and the bad.
For example, as I look at the plethora of toys strewn in the house, I consider that the kids haven’t asked one time to play on the computer or video game but instead choose to play together the whole Saturday.
As I watch Drew in pain from having 8 stitches in his head from a playground accident, I am thankful for the numerous teachers and nurse who swooped in to care for him and watch out for him in the days that follow.
As I watch my mom battle cancer and I wonder why now, I consider that she survived it 18 years ago and I’m thankful for those healthy years.
You see, as someone who has struggled with non-clinical depression off and on since college, I’ve come to believe – and experience – that “with thanksgiving” could actually be the most important phrase in the Philippians passage. We simply have to make the choice to choose to be thankful, even when we don’t feel like it.
If we truly want the peace that transcends understanding, we won’t skip thanksgiving.