How can I be grateful when so many of my expectations have gone unmet? Why am I bent on thinking and wishing for the ideal and not able to be content and grateful for what is? Why are the circumstances of life robbing me of the joy and peace?

For many, Thanksgiving is a time where many struggle to be grateful. Poor health, absence of loved ones, a lost job, loneliness, hurtful relationships, and sick children often give us pause as to why life has to be so difficult. In the midst of all of this suffering, how can we break free from the darkness that guides our every thought?

The Bible shows us how to give thanks on the hardest of days. When the last thing we want to do is to praise God, we are reminded to do so anyway! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

By knowing and meditating on the Word, we learn about the nature of God that gives us encouragement, hope, and peace that passes all understanding. For example, a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty and how he makes all things work together for the good to those who love Him is the heartbeat of thanksgiving; it neutralizes an ungrateful and complaining heart.

We know that it is God’s will that we glorify him always, even through suffering. When we suffer well, others will see God living in us.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4).

The first chapter in Ephesians, Paul, reassures us that God is good, a giver of blessings, and is our Father! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He chose us and adopted us according to his will. We have redemption through his death on the cross, forgiveness, wisdom, and insight and the promise of being united with him in heaven. We worship a God who will never leave us and will walk through any circumstance with us for our good and His glory.

Thankfulness is the only proper response to God’s lavish grace. How can we share the graciousness God has given to us with others? What about inviting a family or friend who is alone this Thanksgiving to come and celebrate with you? How about leaving history behind and lovingly engaging with those difficult people that will be sitting with you at the Thanksgiving table?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35).