• Timothy Jemly

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic

The holidays feel a little off this year with everything that is going on in our world. However, I believe that we are particularly in need of the blessing that Thanksgiving can and should be in our lives. When thanksgiving is done right, it should help us escape the fear and anxiety that’s so plaguing our world right now. Allow me to explain…

Growing up, my mother was in constant fear of every disease and illness known to humanity. It didn’t help that she was a nurse and daily saw all the terrible things that could go wrong. Every time she opened a can, she made us be quiet so she could hear if it made a pshh sound. If it didn’t, she would throw it out in fear of getting botulism. If a squirrel got to close to us at the park, she would freak out that we could get rabies or bubonic plague from it. But her biggest fear was cancer. We were one of the last families to get a microwave because she was convinced it would cause cancer.

When I was in Jr. High, her worst fear came true when a doctor diagnosed her with cancer. Then a miracle happened. God didn’t heal her of cancer, but He healed her spirit of worry and anxiety. I watched my mother go from being worrier to be warrior. She was joyful and at peace during the entire course of the illness that eventually took her life. She traveled around sharing her testimony and giving praise to God in the middle of her trial.

I miss my mother terribly, but I am determined to carry on her legacy by proclaiming her truth: “It is possible to leave behind fear, anxiety, stress and many types of anger and instead live in perfect joy and peace.” I know this sounds like pie-in-the-sky, but it should be the norm. I am confident in proclaiming—anyone can be free of anger and anxiety and can receive joy and peace. Not because I think so, not even because of my experience or because of a scientific study. No, I am confident you can learn to leave behind fear and anxiety and receive joy and peace because God says you can. The Bible repeatedly commands us not to fear and not to be anxious. The Bible repeatedly commands us not to fear and not to be anxious. In fact, it says it 365 times - one for each day of the year. Here’s a small sampling.

Philippians 4:6 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV)

In John 14:27 Jesus is leaving his disciples with some last instructions before He goes to the cross and then is resurrected and ascends to heaven. Immediately after He shares the last supper with His disciples, He tells them:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

Jesus wouldn’t have told us to not to let our hearts be troubled or be afraid if He wasn’t also providing a way for us to get to that place. So how can we make that a reality in our lives? The secret to is allowing Jesus to be not only Savior but Lord.

Jesus came and died on a cross so we could enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. That isn’t all, He also came so we could enjoy an abundant life now. Both things only happen when we allow Him to be in total control of our lives. We must turn over the reins to Him and let Him be the boss. That may not sound very fun; we enjoy being in control of our own decisions. But I have found it to be the best decision anyone can make. In John 10:10 Jesus says:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

When Jesus talks about having life to the full, He isn’t just referring to our future in heaven. He wants us to have that abundant life now. By putting Him in charge of our life, we can thrive now.

When we live in a constant state of elevated adrenalin, it causes a lot of physical problems. Fear causes stress, and chronic stress is one of the leading causes of heart disease, cancer and other major illnesses. The good news is that you can live a life free from those kinds of fears.

how do we go about banishing stress, anxiety, worry and generalized fear from our life? Philippians 4:6-8 tells us how.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (NIV)

The text tells us not to be anxious but instead to pray and to give thanks. So, when I feel anxious, I pray and give the problem over to God. Then I praise Him for all the ways He has and is taking care of me. This text reminds me that when I pray and praise peace guards my heart. God’s peace is with me so strongly that it wards off all fear and guards my mind too, so I don’t get sucked into negative thoughts.

This thanksgiving, remember it’s not about the food, the football, or preparing for the black Friday sales. It truly is a day set aside to remind us to Thank God whatever our circumstances. Even if those circumstances involve not being able to gather with friends and family to celebrate the holiday. This year more than ever we need the reminder to keep on praising God amid our trials. Happy Thanksgiving!

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