Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite days of the year because it brings together people I love, spectacular food, and a tradition rooted in gratitude. And bonus: aside from harvest décor throwing up all over Hobby Lobby and Michaels, it’s not an overly commercialized holiday.
But, this year, I’m conflicted. The world feels a bit apocalyptic right now; merciless wars, political acrimony, mass shootings, and daily uncertainties are too many to name. Closer to home, my world has felt a bit apocalyptic, too. My sister was diagnosed with brain cancer. My husband’s job was eliminated after a company buy-out. My daughter-in-law is battling pain that doctors can’t quite figure out and relieve. My daughter quit her job to solo travel across South America for five months (which I would think is remarkable if it were your daughter).
Globally… personally… it’s all too much sometimes. Trials and tribulations don’t respect a calendar or care when it’s time to celebrate a holiday or special occasion. When life brings big and hard things all at the same time, despair, fear, helplessness, and pain conspire to demand our attention. And when we take our eyes off God and focus on the circumstances around us, we’ll sink just like Peter did when he took his eyes off Jesus.
So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…
(See Matthew 14:27-31 ESV)
When Peter’s focus shifted from Jesus to his circumstances, he sank. But Jesus was right there to rescue him. What a relief that He does the same thing for you and me!
Without faith in God, His goodness, and the miracle of the gospel, I honestly don’t know how people get out of bed in the morning. The weight of the world is too heavy to carry alone. But that’s because we aren’t supposed to, right?
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus implores us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV). And in Galatians 6:2, the body of Christ is encouraged to carry one another’s burdens. Over and over, I’ve learned how walking out life’s difficulties with others is so much better than all by yourself.
And, when I finally trust God with the exhausting, sad, and complicated situations I’m facing, there’s room for peace to quiet the noise.
In tumultuous times, we’re quick to run to God, and, thankfully, He’s always waiting with open arms. But, when all is going well, sometimes we forget how much we need Him, don’t we?
While it’s not always easy to be thankful when life gets hard, gratitude is an essential aspect of our faith. In the seasons when I’m struggling, it helps me to remember a few simple things to lead me to genuine and heartfelt gratitude:
Remember God’s Unchanging Character: When you find it challenging to be thankful, remind yourself of God’s unchanging character. Throughout the Bible, God is described as faithful, loving, and compassionate. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Even amid adversity, God remains constant. Trusting in His character can give you the confidence to be thankful, knowing that He is working all things together for your good (Romans 8:28).
Remember God’s Past Faithfulness: Reflect on the moments in your life when God has been faithful. Recall answered prayers, unexpected blessings, divine appointments, and God-winks. Maybe even create your own “altars of remembrance” in your heart, celebrating God’s past provisions. This kind of intention will encourage a heart of thanksgiving, even during difficulties.
Remember What Your Future Holds: It’s easy to become fixated on the trials of this world and lose sight of an eternal perspective. As believers, we are promised an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). Our present struggles are temporary, but our future in Christ is secure. Keeping this eternal perspective in mind can help us endure hardships with a heart full of thanksgiving, knowing where our true treasure lies.
Struggling to be thankful is normal for most of us at some point in our lives. But because of Jesus and what He’s done for us, we have the tools to overcome this challenge. By remembering God’s unchanging character, His past faithfulness, and our eternal inheritance in Christ, we can cultivate a heart of gratitude even in the face of adversity. In doing so, we not only honor God but can also find peace, joy, and strength to navigate life’s difficulties with heartfelt thankfulness. And not just the week of Thanksgiving.