We all have years where it’s hard to be grateful during Thanksgiving.
How can you thank God when the doctor has just diagnosed you with cancer?
How do you thank God when the love of your life has just left you?
How do you say thank you when your ministry dream has crashed?
Those years are tough, and the holiday season seems to make it worse. But guess what? You can still be grateful. In fact, the Bible tells us, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT).
The key to this verse is the word “in.” The Bible doesn’t say we have to give thanks for all circumstances. The difference between the word “in” and the word “for” is the difference between maturity and masochism.
God doesn’t expect you to be grateful for everything in your life—because there’s a lot of bad in your life. We all know there’s a lot of sin in the world. It would be masochistic to thank God for sin and the suffering it causes.
But God says we can be “thankful in all circumstances”—even in the worst times of our lives.
So how can you be thankful even when you don’t feel like it?
Thank God for these five things.
- God’s grace — Everything in your life is a gift of God’s grace (James 1:17). Most importantly, your salvation is a gift from him. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (NLT). If we received what we deserved for our rebellion against God, we’d spend eternity outside of God’s presence. But thanks to God’s free gift, we’ll spend eternity with him.
- God’s plan — You may not feel it now, but God has good plans for you. While life isn’t always good, God is. God’s plan is bigger than our mistakes. It’s bigger than the trials in front of us. Why do we believe this? The Bible tells us, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). Even through difficulties, God’s plan is at work in your life.
- God’s presence—You are never alone. God is with you all the time, no matter what you’re going through. “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18 NIV).
- God’s sanctification—No matter what you go through, God will use it to change you for the better. God is always at work in you, making you more like Jesus. He even uses your suffering to grow your character. Romans 5:3-4 says, “We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character” (CEV).
- God’s home—Regardless of the pain currently in your life, it won’t last. One day, Jesus will take you to a place that is so much better than where you are today. In John 14, Jesus says: “After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am” (John 14:3 GNT). None of us can imagine the place Jesus has been preparing for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). The pain of this life pales in comparison.
You may have had a tough year, but that doesn’t mean you are without something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Be grateful for these blessings in your life.