1 Thessalonians 5:12-18English Standard Version
Final Instructions and Benediction
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Signs of the Thanksgiving season are everywhere this week.
Everywhere we go we are consistently reminded by everyone an everything we see we are to give thanks for all that we have, especially our friends and family.
But what if maybe you an I do not feel thankful?
Maybe this year we are unable to locate one single reason to be thankful.
Maybe you an I are lacking close relationships or recently have gone through a major breakup or loss of a loved one. Maybe you an I do have others in our life, but our relationships are too complex, too conflictual or way too disappointing.
Perhaps the economic climate in our families precludes our usual shopping day.
Perhaps we have lost our job or have serious or chronic health problems, which make it difficult to feel thankful.
Or we might struggle with homelessness, a new high risk of homelessness or addictions, or depression or other mental health problems that make getting through every day a huge challenge we do not feel like confronting.
Maybe there is someone in our family who has become seriously ill and is now unable to participate in the festivities, maybe they have moved far away, there is no money anywhere for anybody to travel the distance now between you both.
Maybe our loved ones are members of the Armed Forces of our countries and the situation is such that no one is able to get those “orders” to travel home.
Perhaps we now have no home to go to because of major weather events which have destroyed the home or flooded it out or made it uninhabitable an unsafe.
Perhaps the home you knew or had just bought, has burned to the ground.
Perhaps the home you knew is now the home you can never go back to because you are a refugee or an immigrant fleeing a dangerous and unstable situation.
If one of these situations resonates with you, or resonates with me, we might not be feeling very thankful this season and we pray others to leave us alone.
For some other people, reminders to be thankful can bring joy. But what are the effects of being prompted to be thankful when you just aren’t feeling thankful?
Unfortunately, when you aren’t feeling thankful, even the minutest, smallest of reminders to be thankful are “offensive,” can make you and me feel even worse.
When you are struggling, being prompted to be thankful may seem insensitive.
You may feel misunderstood, alone, or isolated.
You might feel like everyone around you is thankful and full of joy, and you are alone in your thanklessness.
You may feel annoyed or even angry if it seems that others want you to be thankful to fit their schema for the holiday. If you have tried to feel thankful and just cannot bring yourself to do it, you may feel disappointed in yourself.
I confess… some days I don’t feel thankful. On those days I can still make of list of all my blessings, but instead of it propelling feelings of gratitude it makes me feel that much more guilty its not there, you cannot put it there.
It’s a horrible feeling to be trying with everything you have to feel something you know you should be feeling but are not and do not believe you are allowed.
Does that ever happen to you?
Is this a familiar sensation?
If this is how you feel, getting through the holiday can be challenging.
Here are some ideas for making it a bit easier.
1. Accept your feelings and be compassionate with yourself.
You may think that you are supposed to feel thankful on Thanksgiving.
This is especially true if there are some aspects of your life that are positive, such as good health or a steady job.
However, sometimes our struggles weigh heavily on us, making it difficult to appreciate our blessings.
If this is happening to you, that is alright.
It happens to the best of us.
Not being able to feel thankful doesn’t make someone a “bad person.”
You may be having a tough time, and the tough times may be fleeting or may be more longstanding.
Either way, please see yourself as a good person, and treat yourself with the compassion and understanding that you deserve.
Accepting your feelings is important because it can bring you more peace than trying to fight them.
In addition, accepting your feelings is important because denying feelings can lead to other problems.
“Fake it till you Make it?”
If you are determined to stride into Thanksgiving pretending to feel something that you don’t, this façade can crumble in a hurry during the day, leading you to feel embarrassed or even worse than when you started in the first place.
2. Make a plan for challenging interactions.
Many holidays have fallen apart as a result of quibbling throughout the day or full-blown arguments.
If you somehow anticipate being annoyed, irritated or provoked by someone during the day, whether it’s your mother-in-law, third cousin, or own spouse or child, make a plan now for how you will react. First, foremost – Pray to God!
Thanksgiving dinner is definitely not the most opportune time for proving that case you are right or making a case for something controversial that is vitally important to you, especially if you are out of sorts and not feeling your best.
Instead of trying to win those arguments, try embracing the goal of getting through the day with as much of God’s grace and God’s peace as possible.
To do this, you need to think about what you will do when someone sets you off or gets under your skin that will deescalate the tension.
This could be ignoring a comment, agreeing if you can, agreeing to disagree, changing the subject, or saying you aren’t going to talk about a particular topic.
Doing any of these things will probably mean that you are being the bigger person. This may not be “fair,” may seem like you are avoiding, but it will increase the chances of you making it through your day with less stress.
3. Make a plan if you are going to spend the day alone.
For any number of reasons, many people find themselves dining alone on Thanksgiving when they rather would spend the day with others.
There are ways to get around this: inviting others to your home, asking a friend if you can join them (even if doing so is a little awkward), or volunteering at a church or at a homeless shelter or other location serving Thanksgiving dinner.
If none of these ideas appeal to you or are possible, you can still make peace with the holiday on your own. The irony here is that many of us would typically be thrilled to have a day to ourselves with no expectations for productivity.
However, the day can feel mightily empty when it’s a holiday.
Now is the time to start re-framing how you think about this day on your own.
This may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have.
So, how can you make the best of it?
What would you do if the day were not a holiday?
Thinking about this now is important so you can research what shops or restaurants will be closed and gather whatever you need for your day now.
Remember too that a good plan does not necessarily mean that you won’t have feelings of sadness or disappointment.
But a good plan for filling the time with things you enjoy should help the hours roll by faster and with more pleasant moments.
4. End the day with something to look forward to.
What do you most enjoy doing in the hour or two before going to sleep?
Maybe it’s a cozy spot with a good book, or a bath and glass of wine, or a long drive, or walk outside.
Whatever it is, do it.
If you have a busy day with friends or family, prioritize carving out and protecting this time.
If you are on your own, save these activities for the end of the day.
Doing this will serve two purposes.
First, you will have something to look forward to as you make your way through your day.
Second, it is a way of rewarding yourself.
By evening, you will have made it through a day that you found challenging.
This is not an easy feat, and you should take pride in what you have done.
How Does the Word of God encourage Us during particularly Hard Times?
1 Thessalonians 5:12-18New American Standard Bible
12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and [a]are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you [b]instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [c]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
As believers, we are taught to pray.
But what are we taught to pray?
The Word of God for the Children of God
– Begin to Reflect upon something an someone far, far greater than yourself,
Upon God, the Father an Go the Son and Holy Spirit,
Even if you do not know the words – Sing Psalms ….
For example ….
Psalm 42English Standard Version
Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
To the choirmaster. A Maskil[a] of the Sons of Korah.
42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation[c] 6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
But why should we pray when we do not feel like it?
But why should we pray when we cannot bring ourselves to do it?
Prayer, even the most silent and most anguished of prayers brings us into a time of sacred communion with God, the maker and sustainer of the universe.
God gives us life, and he sustains our daily living.
We should pray because God has everything we need and wants us to flourish.
What’s more, we should pray, even in silence, even when we feel like crying because in prayer we give thanks to God for all that he is and all that he does.
In prayer, even the most silent and anguished prayer, we recognize our utter dependence on God. It can be hard to admit that we are completely dependent.
But at the same time every anguished prayer opens our hearts to more fully experience the breathtaking scope of God’s amazing grace and mercy for us.
Thanksgiving in prayer is not just a good idea or a suggestion, though.
It’s a command, as the apostle Paul reminds us.
By rejoicing always, praying continually, we obey the will of God for us in Christ Jesus who taught His disciples to pray, under any and every last circumstance:
From the Scriptures:
He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
–Luke 11:1-4 (NRSV)
Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others of their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
–Matthew 6:9-15 (NRSV)
Sometimes we think of such “continual” commands as an even worse burden.
But obeying this command (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18)will bless us beyond measure, put us in the best position for loving and serving God in the world.
So when you pray today (and always), spend time communing with God, ask him for whatever you need, in the living Word of God and feel the strong rush of his grace and mercy resulting in a sense of gratitude that shapes all you do.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Creator God, your mighty hand threw chaos aside, your hand created heaven and earth, your hand threw the stars into space and the same hand which created me, now reaches down to me with the very gentlest and healing of touches. Yet God, I don’t have the strength to deal with the situation I am facing right now. I pray please uphold me with your stronger than my own righteous right hand. I don’t know what else to do now, or who else to turn to, please help me. You say that I do not need to be afraid, do not need to let my heart be troubled or dismayed because you are my God and you are with me. Still I hurt! Help me to know your presence in the midst of my circumstances and draw strength from you. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.