If I’m honest about it, I’m not feeling all that grateful here at the start of Thanksgiving week. “Sad” would be a more accurate descriptor.

Over the weekend, we received news that one of our daughter’s 12-year-old classmates had died. He succumbed to injuries suffered in an ATV accident a few days earlier — on his birthday. I can’t begin to imagine the grief his family and friends are experiencing. About the same time, a friend called with news that his adult son had died in a drowning accident. Grief upon grief, sorrow upon sorrow.

All of this would hit hard enough under normal circumstances, but my whole family is dealing with the COVID-19 virus. The symptoms haven’t been horrible, but they certainly haven’t been great, and feeling lousy physically only magnifies the emotional pain of so much bad news.

And yet here we are, just days away from Thanksgiving. Doesn’t it seem like we should just reschedule? Wouldn’t it be better to put it off for a happier time? Besides, for many of us, the Thanksgiving table will be less populated than in years past. We either can’t gather with our extended family, or we shouldn’t. So why bother?

Of course, we don’t have a choice. Thanksgiving is coming whether we want it to or not. And maybe — just maybe — Thanksgiving is exactly what we need more than ever right now. After a year of so much pain — illness and death, scary headlines, division and hatred and violence, fear and confusion, and yes, such a wild ride in the market — maybe what we all need right now is to turn off the news, step away from our social media accounts, and spend some time reflecting on and giving thanks to God for all that we have to be grateful for.

The Bible tells us it’s God’s will that we “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Regularly giving thanks is glorifying to God, and it’s good for our souls.

All is gift

I can’t remember when or why, but many years ago I got in the habit of beginning most prayers by thanking God for each day and acknowledging that “every day is a gift.” I say those words so often that sometimes it sounds mechanical. But even on those days, I find it helpful to start my prayers that way. I can always use the reminder that each new day really is a gift.

In life’s most beautiful moments, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit’s presence within us enables us to catch little glimpses of heaven. That’s incredible, isn’t it? Ever since I came to understand that, I’ve seen each wonderful experience with fresh eyes. And each little taste of all that we will one day fully experience has given me a whole new level of gratitude to God.

I still find it difficult to make sense of life’s tragic moments. All that I, or anyone, can do is to come alongside those who are hurting and beseech God to bring the comfort only He can bring.

Throughout this difficult year, I’ve been reminded just how fragile and precious life is, that our journey through life is a sacred journey in which our mission is to love God and people well, and that we should hold everything with open hands of gratitude.

For many of us, Thanksgiving will look different this year than in years past. No matter what circumstances your family is facing, all of us at SMI pray you will experience God’s goodness in powerful ways.