Fighting the “If-Onlys” During the Holidays

Is there any time more gratitude filling than when you’re passing a basket of fragrant, fresh-baked bread to your favorite people? Sitting around the table, enjoying conversation with parents, siblings and children (and those random weird relatives), it’s the ideal time to sit back, loosen your belt, and take stock of all the blessings in your life.

Gratitude can be difficult to achieve, but there’s something even more challenging around the holidays—contentment.

It doesn’t help that the holidays never seem to turn out exactly the way we wish they would. Family members have to work, random little disagreements, the pie doesn’t turn out right. Work deadlines and sales pressure. Delayed flights and traffic. Families scramble from the home of one family to the home of another at breakneck speed. And so on and so on.

Right when things get hectic that we start to wish things were different. Even though we’re truly thankful for what we have, we still wish for things a little more. We come down with a case of the “if only’s”…

…if only the kids were still young.

…if only everyone could be at the family dinner without rushing off.

…if only the house was a little bigger to accommodate the growing family.

There always seems to be one thing that could be better.

The dictionary definition of contentment is “being satisfied, pleased, and not needing more.” It’s a simple concept, but not an easy one. In the culture we live in—particularly right around Christmas—we’re tempted to want more than we already have.

The Bible tells us that there’s a “secret of being content” (Phil. 4:12), and that secret is found in seeking God for strength, peace, and basic needs. God promises to not only provide everything we need, but to give us abundantly more than we could even ask for.

There are real and hard reasons that people struggle during the holidays. Loss and loneliness are especially difficult for many during this time of year. But a shift in perspective can help create peace in the moment and new memories for the future.

When you know you’re blessed and provided for, you can change the way you think about the “if onlys.” Rather than longing for more, try and think from a heart and mind of contentment. It looks more like this:

…if only we could enjoy every moment we have with our children, grown or otherwise.

…if only we could soak in and express gratitude for every brief moment we have with our families.

…if only we could fill every corner of this tiny house with love, fun, acceptance, and joy.

So what are you focused on this Thanksgiving? Are you a little too focused on the past to enjoy what’s happening right now? Are you imagining what you hope will change for next year? Or are you filled with “if onlys” to see the blessings in front of you?

As you express prayers of gratitude this year and enjoy fantastic food and family…be sure to say some prayers for contentment as well. It will make all the difference.


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