Have you ever wondered how it is possible to be thankful but also feel very much in need, anxious even?  As we approach what is likely a very different holiday season, with many of us grieving and continuing to process all this year has brought as well as the unknowns that lie ahead, how can we still practice gratitude?  And, why should we?  Because God is still good, and He is still in control.  We have to fight for this perspective.  

In Philippians 4:4-8, we are called to be thankful in the midst of making our needs known.  Think about that for a moment.  It’s a strange combination that does not come naturally.  So why would we be urged to do something so unnatural, to be thankful in the midst of weariness and legitimate need?  I believe it is so our compassionate Father can meet a very real need – our strengthening.  As we intentionally give thanks, we remember.  We remember what God has done, and when we remember, our faith is increased.  We are given a fresh boost of endurance, of joy even, and we are able to persevere a little bit longer.  We are given his supernatural peace.  Intentionally giving thanks at all times gives glory to God and strength to our weary hearts.  

So, grab your journal, and let’s walk through Philippians 4:4-8 together, meditating on truth, and presenting our thanks as well as our needs to our good Father who sees, cares and acts.  

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)  

  • Take a moment to reflect on the goodness of God.  Write your thoughts below and simply praise Him for who He is.  
  • We are told to rejoice always, which includes difficult circumstances.  What difficulties have you walked through this year?  
  • Were you able to rejoice in the midst of your difficult circumstances?  If not, can you remember what thoughts were occupying your mind?  Were they helpful or hurtful?  
  • What were the wins for this year?  Take time to celebrate those and look for God’s hand in them.  
  • What stirs your heart to worship and rejoice?  How can you incorporate that into your daily routine more?  

“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) 

  • Have you seen kindness and gentleness in others this year?  Take some time to reflect on this, write a prayer of thanksgiving for their presence in your life, and consider taking it a step further even by telling them if you haven’t already.  
  • Have you found it easy or difficult to have a “gentle spirit” this year?  Are there any patterns in your thoughts or behavior you can identify that might help you understand why?
  • Have you felt the nearness of God this year?  In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells us that He is with us always.  Has it been hard to believe that He is always near?  Why?  Take some time to reflect and thank Him for His continual nearness.  

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

  • We serve a good God who wants to meet our needs in His perfect wisdom (meaning His answers won’t always be what we expect but will be for our ultimate good).  What needs do you need to turn over to God?  Spend some time writing them down.  If you struggle to release control, ask Him to help you depend on Him.  He’s there, and He wants to help. 
  • As you think about the needs you wrote down, can you think of any difficult circumstances that you have walked through previously?  How has God previously met needs in your life?  Take some time to reflect on this and thank Him for how He has proved faithful before.
  • Still thinking about your current needs, are there any Bible verses that would encourage you and strengthen you to persevere through this trial?  (You can do a quick search here to help you find some if needed.) Write them below.  
  • Have you experienced peace this year?  Are you in need of peace right now?  
  • Take some time to reflect on how the peace of God is different from the peace of this world.  What do you think it means for the peace of God to “guard your heart”? 

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

  • What we intake has a profound impact on our emotions and mental well-being.  What has been helpful this year in fixing your heart and mind on truth? (music, books, Bible passages, sermons, etc.)  Have you shared these resources with your friends and family so they can be encouraged by them as well?  
  • Finally, take some time to dwell on things that are “worthy of praise” right now.  Praise God for who He is, list out as many adjectives as you can that describe Him.  Praise God for how He has moved in your life this year, no matter how small or big it seems.  Dwell on Him till you have peace.  

May you find needed strength today as you blend your thanks with your petitions.  May you find peace you never knew was possible as you choose to rejoice always, no matter what your circumstances look like.  May you find the ability to dwell on things that are “worthy of praise” and rest in the goodness of your Father who loves you.