(This devotion is day two of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Yesterday focused on recognizing God as the source in blessings. We feel gratitude and we give thanks. Today, we’ll broaden our definition of blessings.
Blessings include gifts in our life and God’s provision, but it can also include God’s comforting presence, His ongoing work in us, His involvement in our life, ministry He’s doing through us, what He reveals in His world, and what He teaches us in His Word. “Blessings” encompasses many things. It’s broader and deeper than idyllic stock-phots and Pinterest boards. But we often focus only on positive things with thanksgiving.
It’s easier to give thanks for tasty pizza than cold oatmeal. It’s not a challenge to give thanks for a new vehicle, but it can be for my car with its embarrassing loud sounds. And it’s easier to give thanks for the circumstances I appreciate than the ones I don’t.
All of that is natural, and I find it to be a great place to start for giving thanks. Start with thanksgiving by picking the low-hanging fruit. As we begin our journey toward gratitude, I find it helpful to start with God’s blessings, Word, and work we can easily identify and embrace. As gratitude becomes a posture of our heart and giving thanks becomes a practice in our life, we’re then set up to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20).
But thanksgiving isn’t just for the “good stuff” in life we’ve asked for. We can give thanks in all circumstances since God’s good, wise, and kind sovereignty allows whatever comes our way. God’s plan is always to “do you good in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16). Always. And He is working all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28–30). All things.
We can give thanks because God brings light into darkness (John 1:5), order out of chaos (Genesis 1:1–3), and victory through pain (Acts 2:23–24). God restores what was lost (Job 42:10). What others meant for evil, God intends for good (Genesis 50:20). Hold up. If you’re like me, you read over sweeping statements like these without giving them the double-take they deserve. Our minds affirm them, but we move on before they sink in. Read them again slowly, believing they’re true for you right now.
- You can give thanks because God brings light into darkness (John 1:5), order out of chaos (Genesis 1:1–3), and victory through pain (Acts 2:23–24).
- God restores what’s been lost (Job 42:10).
- What others meant for evil, God intends for your good (Genesis 50:20).
Only God can do these things. Apart from Him, trials only lead to sorrow and despair, but we can give thanks knowing He will work this out for our good.
God’s Providence in Daniel’s Pain
A main thread in Daniel’s story was suffering. Israel’s conquering enemy (Babylon) ravaged their homeland, then deported the Jews to a foreign land with all its pagan beliefs and practices. Throughout Daniel’s life, he would be attacked, persecuted, maligned, imprisoned, and mistreated, despite his faithfulness and obedience to God. Daniel suffered, and he watched his people suffer. His difficulties weren’t #firstworldproblems but were as weighty as choosing whether to honor God and face death, or follow the laws of the land and experience abundance while doing something wrong.
Despite a life of hardship, Daniel trusted God. Instead of grumbling and complaining, he anchored his life on the rock-solid hope of God’s sovereignty and wisdom. And because of this, he could give thanks in everything (Daniel 2:20–23; 6:10). Trials don’t have to silence thanksgiving. He still declared, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever” (2:20).
Daniel praises God while suffering in exile because God sets up kings and nations (2:21). Though he’s a powerless pawn subject to a tyrant king, Daniel can praise God because no earthly kingdom’s power and knowledge compares to God’s wisdom and might (2:21). Daniel blesses God when put in a tough trial—such as interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—because he trusts God gives and reveals dreams, and God will answer his prayer for understanding (2:21–22). When Daniel’s life is on the line, and he’s tempted to hide his faith or deny God, he can get down on his knees and find reasons to thank God (6:10).
God has a plan and purpose for each part of your life. The season you’re in, whether in the valley or on the mountaintop, is not in vain. The relationships, roles, place, and positions He’s put you in aren’t accidental. He has a purpose for you there. The trials and temptations God allows you to experience aren’t punishments. They’re aimed for your growth, not to mention the good of others and His glory.
Nothing will be wasted. In everything, we can give thanks. We give thanks by leaning into trust, claiming God’s promises in our pain. We trust Him for what’s unseen and unknown because we see and know Him.
Continue to thank God for the blessings and gifts in your life. Cultivate this habit by daily meditating on God’s grace and generosity to you. But today, take a few minutes to consider how you can also give thanks in challenging circumstances.
Where has God placed you (family, relationships, work, city, church, roles, positions), and how can you thank Him for these things? What’s a trial you’re in? How can you thank Him in the middle of it? Are there ways you see Him at work? What is He teaching you? What has God promised you or what do you know to be true about Him you can bank on in any situation?
Write down a few challenges in your life. Then write next to them how you can thank God in them. This will stretch you, but it’s one way we learn to give thanks in all things.
 We don’t comprehend exactly how man’s responsibility works with God’s sovereignty. In the mystery, we give thanks. We don’t have to distinguish which troubles we brought on from our own bad decisions. Some things are part of living in a broken, fallen world. People unjustly suffer harm, abuse, or the consequences of someone else’s actions. In all these things, we can simultaneously lament the brokenness of our world and mourn the shattered fragments piercing us, while also thanking God that He is still at work, He has good plans, He is with us, and He is strong and kind when we need to fall into His arms.
 The theme of thanksgiving goes beyond words like “give thanks” or “thanksgiving” and is often present in words such as praise, bless, rejoice, exult, and exalt.