1 Way to Celebrating Thanksgiving When It’s Hard

Thanksgiving meal
Thanksgiving can be a holiday of both joy and grief, so how do we hold both as we gobble turkey or watch the game?

The ideal holiday doesn’t exist—and for many of us, Thanksgiving arrives with both gratitude and grief.  Maybe the empty chair reminds us of loved ones past, or too far for a visit. Maybe we feel pressure for a perfectly crisp, moist turkey which brings stress rather than gratitude. We try to muster a grateful heart—but that feels like work too.

I know; I’ve been there. The picture at the top is the last time I celebrated Thanksgiving with two of our family members—now passed.

Thanksgiving does not mean stuffing down all sadness and concocting plastic joy. I think we can hold both gratitude and grief in the same moment—life is complicated that way.

But don’t we want to experience actual peace? Actual Thanksgiving?

If so, I invite you to sit for a few moments and reflect on a couple ideas about thanksgiving from Scripture.

Thanksgiving Feast in the Old Testament

Edited From New Bible Dictionary:

The Israelites celebrated Festival of Booths (or Festival of Ingathering) for 7 days and it came at the end of the year when they gathered in the harvest.

They spent time rejoicing and giving thanks (Dt. 16:14). Families built booths made of trees and branches of palm trees and offered sacrifices (Lv. 23:42, Nu.29:36).

This feast reminded the Jews of their wandering and dwelling in booths in the wilderness (Lv. 23:43). It pointed to the truth that Israel’s life rested upon redemption, the forgiveness of sin.

This fact separates this feast from the harvest festivals of the neighboring nations whose roots lay in idol worship.[1]

[1] D. Freeman, “Tabernacles, Feast Of,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1148.

The Old Testament shows us
that thanksgiving is a way
we worship God.

A Lesson on Thanksgiving

Jesus walked to Jerusalem for this Festival of Booths (Thanksgiving) and met ten men in need. . .


Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”


What stood out to you from this passage? 

Meditate on that for a moment. 

An outsider, a Samaritan, was the only one who turned back to thank Jesus.  And I wonder, are we so used to God’s grace and provision that we keep running rather than stopping to thank Him for the goodness in our lives? 

Are we so thankful for the things we have, like the healing the nine Lepers received,  rather than the One who heals, our Lord?

1 Way to Celebrate Thanksgiving When It’s Hard

This year stress or sadness might linger in your soul, but one way to can celebrate Thanksgiving when it’s hard is choosing to focus on what God has done in our lives this past year—even in the dark places—and turn those thoughts into prayer.

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Thanksgiving Prayer

Take a few moments to pray about your reflection above or follow the below prompts for a time of prayer.  

Father, son, Holy Spirit, one and only true God, I worship you.  Thank you God for (anything you have been provided this year).

Lord God, thank you also for (anything to do with health of yourself or your loved ones). 

Thank you, God. 

And thank you, God, for (name some people you’re thankful for). 

Thank you, God.  

Now, thank you, God for (the work He enables you to do, paid and unpaid).

Thank you, God. 

And thank you, God, for (our salvation in Jesus). 

(Now sit in a place of gratitude and thank God for anything else that comes to mind.)

Thank you, Lord, for all these things.  In Jesus’s name. Amen.”

What are you thankful for? I would love to hear in the comments.

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Take a pause in the email pile to connect with God. Weekly moments encourage you to know God’s Word, walk with God, and live with purpose.

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