(This devotion is day one of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Daniel 2:17-23; 6:10; Romans 8:28-29
Yesterday’s devotional focused on recognizing God as the source of blessings. We feel gratitude and we give thanks.
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 photos, Instagram hashtags, 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. Giving thanks for a new vehicle with that fresh scent proves less difficult than giving thanks for my car that leaks oil all over the driveway. It’s okay to pick the low-hanging fruit. When it comes to growing in gratitude, I find it helpful to begin with clear blessings in God’s Word and world that 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 prepared to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20).
But thanksgiving isn’t just for the “good stuff” in life we ask 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” (Deut. 8:16). Always. He works all things for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28–30). All things.
We can give thanks because God brings light into darkness (John 1:5), order out of chaos (Gen. 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 (Gen. 50:20). 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 if you’re in Christ.
- You can give thanks because God brings light into darkness, order out of chaos, and victory through pain.
- God restores what has been lost.
- What others meant for evil, God intends for your good.
- God will have the final word; not your failures, suffering, or disappointment.
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 out everything for our good in the end.
God’s Providence in Daniel’s Pain
A main thread in Daniel’s story is suffering. Israel’s conquering enemy (Babylon) ravaged their homeland and deported them to a foreign land with all its pagan beliefs and practices. Despite his faithfulness and obedience to God, Daniel would be attacked, persecuted, maligned, imprisoned, and mistreated. He suffered and watched his people suffer.
Despite a life of hardship, Daniel trusted God. Instead of grumbling, 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 (Dan. 2:20–23; 6:10). Trials didn’t 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 might look like 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 in a tough trial—such as interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—because he trusts that God gives and reveals dreams. 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 still find reasons to thank God (6:10).
Whether a trial squelches or stirs up gratitude has less to do with our circumstances and more to do with our response.
Purpose in Pain
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, places, and positions He puts you in aren’t accidental. God is always purposeful. That theological reality is true in your life. God is always purposeful with you and for you. Your trials and temptations aren’t punishments. They’re aimed for your growth, not to mention the good of others and His glory.
This isn’t to say we don’t lament hard things. And I’m not advocating for an overly optimistic outlook that sweeps pain under the rug and acts as if life is all rainbows and sunshine. We do grieve and lament. Disappointment and discouragement are normal parts of the Christian life. And yet, in the midst of any trial or at the bottom of any valley we still have reasons to look up, find hope, and give thanks. We can both lament what is grievous and painful while giving thanks for God’s goodness, kindness, wisdom, and sovereignty.
Nothing God allows you to experience will be wasted. God has good purposes in everything, and so in everything, we can give thanks. We give thanks by leaning into trust and 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? How can you thank Him in the middle of a trial you’re in? Are there ways you see Him at work? What has God promised you or what do you know to be true about Him you can bank on in any situation?
Grab a pen or use your Notes app to list a couple of challenges in your life. Then write how you can thank God in them. This will stretch you, but it’s one way we learn to give thanks in all things.
Example: You might be discouraged by deterioritating health, but you can thank God for doctors and medicine that help (at times), and you can thank Him that He has a good plan will sustain you.
 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.
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.