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How to be thankful when times are tough

“Bad news travels faster than good.” This ancient phrase seems like our present reality. 

thankful thanksgiving thank
Unsplash/ Ann

One conversation at the water cooler or in passing with your neighbor is enough to remind you that people are upset, scared, depressed, or hurting. One trip to the gas station can cause financial panic for the average American right now.

One attempt to stock the shelves of your shop can leave you wondering if your business will survive another week. And who among us isn’t aware that depression and anxiety have been on the rise during the pandemic — not simply because the experts tell us so, but because we have a family member we can think of who is struggling at this very moment. 

It’s hard to escape bad news right now.

How could we possibly celebrate Thanksgiving with gratitude? Not with earthly platitudes that fail to warm a broken heart stripped of all hope. We need more than that. So, where do we turn?

The Apostle Paul provides a solution. In essence, he tells us to stop and recognize that Jesus reigns supreme. When we do, we can be assured that regardless of what is swirling around us, God is all-powerful and is actively watching for opportunities to help us.

As Paul was suffering an unjust arrest in a prison cell, he wrote to remind Christians that the entire universe is held together by Jesus Christ, who is “before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Jesus is how the oceans stay within their borders, how atoms join to make molecules, how the Milky Way hangs in the heavens. Whether we realize it or not, Jesus, the Living Word, is holding our world together. And he does this out of love for us.

If we can trust Jesus to keep the earth rotating, then we can trust him with every detail of our lives. While suffering severe persecution, Peter wrote, “Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

When life is hard, or we feel defeated, it’s time for an important paradigm shift: We are not victims of circumstance; we are victors through Jesus who loves us. Jesus is sitting in a place of authority and blessing, and God raised us up and seated us with Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). 

Paul added, “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). 

How do you “look to things above?” This may seem obvious but go to your Bible. Each Biblical hero did not live through a cute story with a happy ending, but extreme circumstances that almost annihilated each one. And yet, God was faithful to pull them through:

  • A desperate Moses ran out of water for two million people in the desert. 
  •  A depressed Elijah thought he was the only one left in the world who served God. 
  • A devastated Job suffered the loss of his family and the ridicule of his friends. 
  • A despairing David ran for three years from an enraged, insane King Saul. 
  • A dislocated Daniel suffered deportation and a political plot that led to a lion's den. 
  • A deserted Paul suffered loneliness.

In the midst of his darkest hours in prison, Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). Can you imagine having that peace of mind … from a jail cell? Well, the reality is that we can, because we have access to the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit that Paul did. 

Let me give you some basics to stir your heart toward a Thanksgiving of gratitude. When you sit down at the Thanksgiving table, you can read these right out of Psalm chapter 103. Here’s a sample of the benefits God has for you and me, right at this very moment:

  • He forgives your iniquities.
  • He heals your diseases.
  • He redeems you from destruction.
  • He crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
  • He executes righteousness and judgment for the oppressed.
  • He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and quick to love.
  • He does not deal with us according to our sins.
  • His righteousness is to our children’s children.
  • His kingdom rules over all.

When the headlines get you down, meditate instead on “things above.” Jesus is your hero of heroes, your Lord of lords, your King of kings. Maybe this Thanksgiving, when there’s plenty to be anxious about, is when the reality of who He truly is sinks deep into your soul for the first time. 

Dr. David Jeremiah is among the best known Christian leaders in the world. He serves as senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California and is the founder and host of Turning Point. Turning Point‘s 30-minute radio program is heard on more than 2,200 radio stations daily. A New York Times bestselling author and Gold Medallion winner, he has written more than fifty books.

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