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Monday, November 26, 2012

Staying Grateful in the Consumerism Season

I recently read one of those "Snark Jokes" that circulate on Facebook and Pinterest, which read, "Only in America do people knock each other down to get the latest gadget just one day after giving thanks for what they already own." It makes you think, doesn't it?  In contrast, the Bible says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain," (1Timothy 6: 6 NIV). 

I was praying this weekend and felt God reminding me to stay grateful this season.  It's so easy to fall victim to "want-itis" and to feel bad about budget constraints these days.  Even if we've learned to be satisfied with less this year, the commercials, sales circulars, automated emails, and web ads (especially this weekend) can drive that peace far from us. It's important that we don't lose sight of the important things in the middle of "Consumerism Season."

God's History of Faithfulness

The Bible instructs us, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,'" (Hebrews 13: 5 NIV). We don't have to worry about where things are coming from, because God is going to take care of us--and that is a much better guarantee than a large bank account or a great storehouse of gold or even food.

If we've known God for awhile, we have seen this pattern over and over again in our lives.  In those moments when we feel as if our dreams of the perfect Christmas are far from happening (or beyond our means) it is important to stop and remember how God has been faithful through the years, daily providing for us and sustaining us, and not just during the holidays.

See God's Provision

It's also a good exercise to look for God's provision in our lives today.  What do you already have that is clearly a blessing from God?  I'm not just talking about the latest iPhone, and I might not even be talking about friends and family members.  There are tons of little things God blesses us with every day, even right now, from a nice view to indoor heating, plus, He provides our daily needs, which Jesus called "our daily bread."

I don't mean to be trite, but before we let retailers or our peers make us feel bad for not owning the "latest thing" we should count our blessings. After all, the latest thing is always going away, but God's provision in the present is constant.  The Bible says, " I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread," (Psalm 37: 25 NIV).

Give Thanks in the Midst of Current Needs

The last thing we ought to do to stay grateful this season is also the hardest: praise God, even in the face of current needs.  The Bible reminds us again and again that God is faithful, but when we are facing dire needs, such as serious financial struggles, it can be difficult to keep things in their proper perspective.  That is where praise helps us.

I heard a sermon this weekend that touched upon this. The pastor spoke about the "garment of praise" in Isaiah 61: 3, contrasting the symbolism of fresh garments with the ancient Hebrew custom of tearing the outer garment at the neck to express extreme anguish or grief. The pastor noted that praising God brings healing in our spirit, symbolically replacing the "torn garment" of despair. Praise heals us from feelings of despair and grief at our current circumstances by focusing our eyes beyond that, on the God who is powerful enough to overcome obstacles, who is infinitely trustworthy, and who has brought us hope through His Son, Jesus Christ.

God was there before the current circumstances (like holiday stress) arose, and He will still be there when they are gone.  He intends to carry us through it all, as long as we stand with Him.  Isn't that an awesome thought?