(This devotion is day nine of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Philippians 4:4–9; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18; 1 Peter 5:6–9
We live in an age of anxiety. Alongside the potent fears of our frail hearts and the steady barrage of bad news, the internet and social media have only made things worse. Anxiety, fear, stress, and worry can crush us.
Maybe you or a family member have had to fight fear while managing sickness. Pains linger or symptoms continue. Despite your better judgment, you take to the internet to find out what it could be. It’s very possible this is no big deal, but you also find a dozen websites planting a seed in your mind that something serious is going on. Anxiety reaches out its cold, powerful hand and squeezes your heart. The “what if” scenarios flood your mind. You want to hop off of the train moving too fast toward worry, but you’re caught.
Fight anxiety with adoration. Push back against fear and worry through the power of thanksgiving. Don’t think of gratitude as something to do when life is easy and blessings fall like raindrops. Gratitude is gritty. It’s needed when the rug is swept out from under us. Turn to thanksgiving when blessed or burdened.
Anxiety can cripple us if our eyes get so stuck on the “problem” that we can’t see God. It’s a dangerous cycle. Anxiety pushes God to the side when we what we need most in anxiety is Him. We’re not strong enough to silence our fear or overcome it with optimism. We need hope, but we also need help. God supplies both.
As much as you’re tempted today to let your mind get caught up in anxiety, go a different route. Say no to anxiety caused by trials and yes to adoration produced by thanksgiving.
Instead of strategies centered on self, Paul points us to God. But he doesn’t turn to gratitude as if to say, “It could be worse. Suck it up and look on the bright side.” Thanksgiving redirects our heart. It blocks off the surging waters of worry while opening our hearts to a river of refreshment with the knowledge of God. Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:5–7).
Thanksgiving stirs up trust and hope for what God has done and can do. As we lean into gratitude and note God’s goodness, it shines hope into our darkness.
Here are three ways to fight against fear and anxiety with thanksgiving.
Pray with Thankfulness
The first thing Paul encourages us to do is pray with thankfulness. This not only means making thanksgiving a bigger part of the pie in your prayer life (though that might help), but it suggests there’s a way to pray with thankfulness in all things.
Paul knows we clench our fists around whatever we fear. We want to fix it. We want to figure it out. When we pray, we don’t stop working toward a remedy and do nothing, but we do surrender control (1 Peter 5:6–7). We open our hands (and hearts) and give to God what only He can figure out and fix. Make your requests to God, and thank Him for His plan, purpose, and presence through whatever you’re facing (Phil. 4:6). You can give thanks even while you make requests because God listens and hears. He sees, knows, and cares (Ex. 2:25). And He’s working.
Give Thanks for Blessings
We also cultivate gratitude in anxiety by giving thanks for blessings. Worry can overshadow the way we see the world. It creates a fog hiding blessings from our sight. We start to believe nothing good is happening to us or God left us.
Give thanks for any blessing in your life. Start small and work your way up. Do you have breath in your lungs? Is there anything good you can recall from the last week or month? What is one blessing in your life today you can give thanks for?
Can you give thanks for forgiveness, mercy and grace, adoption in Christ, God’s Word, the Spirit at work in you, or the promise of eternal life? One day things will be made right, and you can give thanks for this not too distant future in the brokenness of the here-and-now.
Recall the Person and Promises of God
A third way to battle anxiety through thanksgiving is recalling who God is and what He’s promised to you. When we give thanks to God in light of who He is, adoration puts anxiety in its proper place. God shines bright as worry grows dim. Thank God for His power, faithfulness, mercy, righteousness, holiness, kindness, compassion, patience, presence, and love.
Tied to who God is are His promises. They are His attributes tethered to a covenant commitment to us as His people. When our feet shake beneath us as fear and worry send tremors into our life, we find stable footing by planting our hope in God’s promises. Stand on them.
What are your favorite promises in Scripture? As one comes to mind, springboard from it into thanksgiving.
God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Josh. 1:5). Give thanks.
He promised to walk with you through floods and fires (Is. 43:2). You are His.
God promises nothing can thwart His plan. He is working everything for your good (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11).
Can you thank Him for these things? Read through a list of some of God’s promises and respond in thanksgiving. It’s better to search this online than to stoke your worries through WebMD. Spend more time soaking up the gifts of God declared in Scripture than stewing over the worry spread on social media or the news.
Fight back the fears of what could be with the rock-solid hope of what you know to be true. In your anxiety, give thanks. In your fear, rejoice in Him. When worried by things below, worship the One above and over it all.
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.