Christmas family photos, Christmas letters and cards, gifts purchased and wrapped, house decorated, events attended, holiday baking completed, colds and stomach viruses—all added to an already full life and schedule. Does it make your head spin as December descends on you? Does each additional task put a little more dread in your heart and raise your stress level another notch? While I am all about planning, organization, and scheduling to make Christmas a special season (here’s an article about that), that doesn’t eliminate the extra time and work involved. On top of it all, this is the season we want to be filled with joy and have peaceful hearts. Is it possible?
In Our Minds
When the next thing comes and our minds start to calculate the time parameters, including where and when it can fit, we have a choice. We either let the feeling of pressure crush in on us and move into stress mode, or we give thanks. To give thanks, we immediately take that thought captive: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We evaluate what we have to be thankful for in it. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Then that becomes our focus rather than the focus of self and how to accomplish it. That’s a pretty simple formula based on two powerful Scriptures. What is the outcome?
As we thank the Lord for this need or activity, our hearts move from self to God. Truly, aren’t we grateful that He has provided funds for gifts and ingredients to bake special treats? If we struggle with the Christmas letter or photo, can’t we give thanks for friends and family we will connect to with them? As we plan to do Christmas decorating, aren’t we happy that those decorations are a constant reminder to our families of the beautiful gift of Jesus Christ born to save us from our sins? Even in sickness, we can be thankful for the family He has given us, that the illness is temporary, and that we can be there to care for the sick one.
Ultimately in gratitude, we put Him in charge rather than our owning the outcomes. After all He has told us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He doesn’t want us to carry the burden. We move out of me having to be in charge and work everything out and into “God will carry me through. I am grateful for what He has brought into my life, and I trust Him through it.”
Whose Got It?
Who do you think has peace and joy—the woman who is stressed and pushing toward perfection in all that she undertakes or the woman who is grateful and rests in her Lord? I have done it both ways, and my natural tendency is toward perfection and the stress that accompanies it. However, I much prefer peace and joy. Gratitude puts our thoughts on Jesus. It quiets our hearts. It puts a smile on our faces and makes us more enjoyable to be around.
May I encourage you the next time Christmas stress threatens to descend on you that you immediately push it out with gratitude. Be thankful out loud if necessary since sometimes those negative thoughts can seem to be more domineering in your mind than the right ones. When you speak gratitude out loud not only you benefit, but your family does as well. With this sweet little plan, I can’t help but wonder if December 25th will arrive, and you will have a joyful, peaceful heart that has been worshipping your Lord through the whole month.