Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This year as we enter the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving, I can’t help but notice that it takes place at a time when many people face situations that suggest anything but gratitude and joy. For some, this will be the first time they spend it without their spouses or other loved ones.

We want holidays to be merry, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic cited some of the below as factors that tend to make the holidays not very happy:

  • Connecting the holidays with family problems or painful memories
  • Expecting that you should feel happy
  • Dealing with the loss of a loved one, or spending the holidays away from friends and family
  • Developing unrealistic expectations, or thinking about negatives that have occurred during the past year
  • Dealing with changes in the family, such as divorce or death

In addition to the above, and the normal anxiety of not meeting holiday expectations, the past few years are some of the toughest many feel they have experienced in a long time—unemployment, debt, bankruptcy, broken hearts, life-threatening illnesses, and seemingly no hope for the future. Believers face the same trials and grief as non-believers. The difference lies in how we understand, and respond to, our challenges.

When the apostle Paul encourages us to give thanks in all things, was that just a nice piece of Bible talk? And if he meant it literally, how is it possible to do such a thing? I’m always uplifted by reading about the life and experiences of the apostle and knowing that he was very serious about the “all things” part.

Paul lost more than most people do in a lifetime. His was an extended experience in loss. But just trace his history and see that even though he was left with virtually nothing of this world’s goods, he remained joy-filled and thankful to the end.

So what about us?

When the holidays roll around and we find ourselves alone or in a hospital room, no gifts to give or receive, or partaking of a very meager meal—where is our hope to beat whatever comes our way?

The hope for the believer rests in the fact that God is in charge of all things and his providential care extends over all his people. As hard as it may be to do, remember the stories of others who have walked the same road we have and seen and experienced first hand the magnificent, all sufficient, and rescuing, loving care of a gracious Benefactor.

No matter what your circumstance, don’t give up or give in. The story is not over yet.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash