In Everything

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. “- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

In past years, November has been an easy month to focus on all that we are grateful for. In 2020, however, this hasn’t come so easily. Usually around this time, as a culture we tend to naturally switch into “be thankful” mode and write lists of what we are thankful for.

I’m not sure where this year has left you, but it has left my family and I feeling vulnerable.

My husband and I moved in March just days before the entire country shut down and we went into our first quarantine. My parents graciously allowed us to move in with them. Our plan was to stay until Christmas, but the first quarantine left it next to impossible for either of us to find jobs. Our bank account dwindled. We had to learn how to be married in a house that totaled 5 people and 4 pets. There was also no escape from each other. Personalities clashed. Anxiety was at an all time high. Eventually we found jobs, but the idea of moving out became impossible. The days of quarantine turned into weeks and then into months. I remember the first time we were able to go sit at a restaurant and eat – I cried.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, going out in public became very difficult. All the while, masks became a fashion accessory. Throw all of that into a heated social climate, a political battle that never seems to end, and tragedies happening all around- it’s surprising how we have all made it this far.

But here we sit the week before Thanksgiving somehow surviving another day.

It’s challenging then to read a verse like 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and think to yourself that it’s even possible. As someone who tends to lean hard into the negative anyway, this year has given me every reason to shut down, disengage, and complain. Even with the upcoming holiday, our plans have changed. It won’t look like a “normal” Thanksgiving. The fact that I had to use the phrase “normal” is enough to send some people spiraling.

But there’s something important I’ve come to learn in the midst of all the chaos:

Our God is not chaos. He is peace in the midst of it all.

I know that’s hard to hear. It’s hard for me to write. But – I think it’s a reminder we all need to hear right now. That’s the beauty of 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It doesn’t just say “in everything give thanks” and stop there. It goes on to say, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” We don’t have to find the courage to be thankful alone. We have a loving Savior who wants to gently remind us why we can be thankful. Yes, even in the midst of the most chaotic year.

The other night at dinner when the five of us sat down we asked the question, “Are you better off than you were a year ago?” Consistently that answer was yes. I was shocked by that at first, but then I realized that our perspective had shifted from simply dealing with the latest tornado thrown at us to instead gaining a full picture of what had actually taken place throughout the whole year. Yes, we moved straight into a quarantine. A year ago, though, we were in a stuck season. We didn’t have the full words for it yet, but the reality was that we were drained. If we had stayed in that, our marriage may have crumbled right along with our faith. Throughout the unexpected year, though, God has allowed us to heal and move forward out of that stuck place. He gave us a new, unshakable strength, despite the uncertainty. A reason to be thankful in everything.

That’s what God did in 2020.

That’s not what I did, what covid did, or what the latest social/political conversation did. God alone did.

It’s obvious this year hasn’t been normal. Regardless, I want to encourage you to ask God the question: “how am I better off than I was a year ago?”

Be prepared to have Him shock you with the answer.