Can I be real with you?
Thanksgiving, in some ways, is an “easy” holiday for me to celebrate—I haven’t had a life full of trauma or hardship. I have plenty to be thankful for.
And yet, Thanksgiving can still be challenging. Our (and definitely my) tendency is to focus on what we don’t have. I love Paul’s words in Philippians 4 that challenge this:
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13).
What? In “any and every” circumstance? That must be an exaggeration.
The context here is Paul writing to the Philippian church—a church he had personally been involved with and knew specific people within. He is thanking the Philippian people for supporting his travels as a missionary and encouraging them as a church.
Friends, I can’t imagine what hardship you’re facing today. Maybe it’s cancer or another type of sickness. Maybe it’s infertility or loss. Maybe it’s stress and feeling overwhelmed by this holiday season—family tension, how you’re going to pay for that never-ending list of Christmas gifts, or fast-approaching finals.
Whatever it is, I can’t pretend to understand or be in your shoes.
However, I do know that we can be content in every circumstance even when it is unthinkable. When it doesn’t make sense, we can have contentment, based on Paul’s assertion above.
I appreciate that early in this passage, Paul uses the word learned—he has “learned to be content”. This is so vital. Contentment does not come easily—especially in light of the world we live in. It is learned!
For me, this is freeing: to know that I am not expected to be content on my own. Today, I am thankful for Jesus and the freedom that I have in Him as His own. I’ve recently been reading through the book of Acts, and the example of the disciples, who personally knew Jesus, is encouraging. It says:
“They (a counsel of high priests) took his (a council member’s) advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they (the apostles) went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:40-42).
Are they crazy? They literally JUST encountered prison and flogging (By the way, flogging does not sound fun.). Yet they are rejoicing and then continue to do the exact same things. What gives?
Their joy in suffering seems crazy. But they know. They KNOW Jesus personally and have very recently seen His power, miracles, and character firsthand. Friends, may I venture that, if we also claim to know Jesus, it should drastically change how we respond to hardships and in being thankful?
Again, I don’t know the road you are walking down—but I am confident that Jesus is a game-changer. Perhaps we can learn to be content (and even thankful) when it doesn’t make sense to us.
This is a huge reason why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday—whether or not I am feeling particularly thankful. Also, pie. Pie definitely plays a part in Thanksgiving being my favorite.