Thanksgiving in 2020
With Thanksgiving Day approaching, some may be finding it challenging to give thanks in a dark and difficult year like 2020. Can we be thankful for the year 2020?
2016 walks into a fast-food joint and says: “I’ll take a wild and ugly presidential election.”
2017 walks in and says: “I’ll take hurricanes and violent racial tensions.”
2018 walks in and says: “I’ll take wildfires, and let’s get some angry and bitter political divisions over the Supreme Court.”
2019 walks in and says: “I’ll take a year of protests and some impeachment on the side.”
2020 walks in, looks up at the menu and says: “I’ll take them all, plus I just talked to 1918 and 2008, and they recommended a global pandemic and a great recession to go with it.”
What a year!
The year 2020 has tested our resilience and optimism more than any year in recent history. Leaving the above analogy aside, let’s think of 2020 like a boxing match:
Boom! The U.S. government is so fractured that everything becomes partisan and deadlocked.
Pow! A global pandemic claims the lives of hundreds of thousands around the world.
Smack! Mandated restrictions fundamentally change our everyday lives and routines.
Right cross! A worldwide economic and financial catastrophe strikes.
Left cross! Social and racial unrest lead to protests, rioting, looting and no solutions in sight.
Uppercut! Devastating wildfires and hurricanes rip through communities and people’s lives.
Technical knockout! Another bitter and ugly presidential election occurs, in which opposing sides don’t just disagree on issues, but really seem to actually hate one another.
Hey, everybody, it’s Thanksgiving!
We’re barely able to keep up with the barrage of bad news, yet we are now expected to be thankful? On top of that, as Christians, we are even expected to give thanks “in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Does “in everything” include 2020?
In order to give thanks “in everything” during times of trial and adversity, we have to find things to be thankful for.Yes, it does.
Does that mean we should be thankful for all the bad things we have experienced, and are still experiencing, in 2020? Not exactly. But is it possible to be thankful in the midst of adversity and suffering?
It’s not easy, but it is possible.
In order to give thanks “in everything” during times of trial and adversity, we have to find things to be thankful for—and we can. Here are two suggestions.
1. Be thankful for the growth that’s come through pain, loss, suffering, trial and adversity.
When thinking of all the challenges that 2020 has brought into the living rooms and lives of people around the world, it may seem offensive to somehow be thankful for these challenges. Yet the Bible goes so far as to suggest we should find joy in coming through the trials of life since they can produce the important characteristic of patience (James 1:2-3).
With God’s help, we can achieve remarkable growth and maturity in life through challenge, adversity, loss and the testing of our status quo. Think of the effect “near misses” have on our lives—when we come so close to destruction through trial or circumstance, but then make it through. These experiences can do something to us.
They can make us stronger.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a quote that is often used to focus on this point. If you are reading this, you are alive and have survived 2020. Think about ways this year’s trials have made your character stronger—and be thankful for that.
2. If being thankful for the problem itself seems unbearable (which is often the case), be thankful for the blessings revealed by the problem.
Again, this may seem odd. How can I be thankful for anything so bad? Let’s look at some ways we can be thankful for blessings revealed by the problems many have faced this year.
- Find thanksgiving while grieving the loss of a loved one. Some reading this may be dealing with the loss of a loved one in 2020. We can be thankful for everything that person meant to us, did for us and gave to us, such as wisdom, love and experiences. As we express our grief and our wish for more time with our loved ones, we can be thankful for the lasting impression they left on us. Also, as Christians, we can be thankful that our loving God has a plan to reunite lost loved ones in the future. There are few things we can be more thankful for than knowing that the dead will live again.
To learn more about this encouraging truth, read our booklet The Last Enemy: What Really Happens After Death.
- Find thanksgiving through financial insecurity and job loss. Thousands of people have lost their jobs or are living with the fear of becoming unemployed. We can be thankful for all the programs that exist to help those who are out of work. Losing employment is a lot less scary than it was 100 years ago. We can also be thankful that there are still jobs available and that those out of work still have opportunities to find employment—and hopefully will. Also, as Christians, we can be thankful that God has a plan to establish a new world where no one will ever go hungry again.
You can learn more about that plan in our booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.
- Find thanksgiving during a global pandemic. The pandemic has caused problems and challenges in many ways. For those who have gotten sick, we can be thankful for all the nurses and doctors who are helping the sick and the advancements that have been made in a relatively short time to treat those who contract the virus. We can also be thankful for every person who is really trying his or her best to keep others safe through commonsense precautions. Also, as Christians, we can be thankful that God has a plan to establish a world without sickness or disease.
To learn about this coming world, read “What Is the Kingdom of God?”
- Find thanksgiving in a time of social unrest and bitter division. Okay, so this is another hard one. It may seem as if there’s nothing to be thankful for in a time of such unrest and division. We see ongoing debates about what is racist and what is not racist, what kind of policing is necessary and what type is unwarranted, what is reasonable protest and what is wrong protest, and the list could go on and on. What possible positive can we get out of this? Well, all these debates at least show us that some people still care deeply about what’s right and what’s wrong—even though their standards might be fundamentally flawed. To argue about right and wrong is to at least acknowledge that there is a right and a wrong.
Christians can be thankful that God has a plan to end these divisive arguments and establish one standard of right and wrong based on perfect fairness and justice. When His Kingdom is established, there will no longer be debates about justice, because perfect justice based on perfect law will be the universal standard. To learn more about how God’s law will change the world, read “The Kingdom of God: The Rule of Law.”
Is it possible to be thankful in 2020?
Possible, yes. Easy? Absolutely not.
When we are praying to our Father for what we need, what we are anxious about, and what we are downright terrified about revolving around the events of 2020—as Christians, we should strive to do it with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7).
Another thing to be thankful about this year? That there is always Someone listening who has the power to control what we cannot. He has the power to make “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and to paraphrase Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof:
“May God bless and keep years like 2020 . . . far away from us.”