Let’s admit it. Sometimes it’s hard to give thanks. Just because the leaves are turning, the weather is cooler and turkey is on the table, being thankful is not an automatic state of being. Traditionally, Thanksgiving in America is a time to reflect and count your blessings. But what if it doesn’t feel like God is heaping a spoonful of blessing on to your Thanksgiving plate? What if you’ve lost a job? What if you’re experiencing an illness? What if a family member or friend has recently passed away? What if you’re just feeling depressed? These are just some of things that might be keeping you from feeling thankful this year.
“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.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians that “in every situation” and “with thanksgiving” that we can present our requests to God. We can be thankful in every situation because we have confidence that God hears us when we pray to him, and as a result, his peace will guard our hearts and minds. With this confidence, what can we be thankful for, even in times of turmoil or sadness?
1. You are not alone.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
Even in the fiercest storm, God is with us. We can put our trust and hope in a Savior who
“is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). That kind of steadfastness is something to rely on through the ups and down.
What’s more, we have a Savior who can “empathize with our weaknesses,” since he was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). We can draw strength from God, who took on flesh, dwelt among us and can understand our struggles.
God knows and understands what you’re going through. Let him in, and put your life in his hands. He’ll carry you through. That’s something to be thankful for.
2. God loves you and is for you.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)
If you’re feeling alone or experiencing hardships in life, remember that God loved you enough to send his son, Jesus, to die for your sins, in order to make a way for you to live eternally with him (John 3:16).
Similarly, if God is on your side, you have no reason to fear. What can man do to you (Psalm 118:6)? Even if you can’t see how God is moving now, you can know that he has a plan to work through you to bring glory to his name. When we’re going through difficult circumstances, we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV).
You can always give thanks for God’s presence in your life and the unseen ways that he moves in your life to grow you into who he wants you to be.
3. You have hope for the future.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.” (1 Peter 1:6 NLT)
We aren’t promised an easy life. Though the road may get rough, we can take heart that eternity awaits. Our “light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV). Any amount of time on earth pales in comparison to the eternity that Jesus is preparing for us.
As the traditional hymn says, “This world is not my home I’m just passing through.” For believers in Christ, there is hope for a future so much greater than anything than this mortal life can offer. When you’re feeling down or distressed about your life, you can be thankful for your eternal future that is secure in Christ.
It’s ok to feel sad. We’re called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15 NIV). If this Thanksgiving season isn’t a particularly happy one and you need support, find a caring, compassionate Christian community to surround you with prayer. There is a time for everything as scripture says in Ecclesiastes 3. Though this season of life may not feel full of God’s blessings, there is still so much to be thankful for. God is with you; he loves you; and your future is secure in him.