How to Give Thanks During Trials

Thanksgiving: Just the word evokes an idealized family gathering where everyone is holding hands and in perfect health, with fully-funded bank accounts, blissful marriages, and children who are always cheerful and obedient.

Now that’s a far cry from reality isn’t it?

No one’s real Thanksgiving gathering looks like this. Ever
How can we give REAL thanks when life is FAR from perfect? We all need to hear this refreshing perspective on giving thanks during trials, especially during Thanksgiving.

Yet we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that in order for unreserved thanks giving to occur (no matter the time of year), this idealized picture must be present.

We’ve bought the lie that our ability to give thanks should be based on how close our life matches this perfect image. 

But what if giving thanks is possible in the here and now–in the midst of marital difficulties, cancer diagnoses, wayward children and empty wallets?

What if God is calling us to search for more on Thanksgiving–to discover a deeper life that is truly able to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) …and he’s using these adversities to bring us there?

What if he’s allowing our tragedies to  to say, “Walk with me and let me show you a lasting contentment and thankfulness that cannot be shaken”?

This is the “giving thanks” I believe God calls us to discover this time of year.

In fact, it’s often through the tears that we can see the testimony to the thanksgiving.

Redefining “Giving Thanks”

In Christian circles, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is an oft-quoted scripture, especially this time of year: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Let that thought sit there for a minute. All circumstances? All the time? Really, God? You want me to say “thank you” if my child is suffering from a debilitating illness or if my husband one day decides to have an affair?

Well, perhaps we need to redefine our definition of what thankfulness is.

Giving thanks doesn’t necessarily mean that that we’re saying we believe the situation is perfect and that’s why we’re thankful.

In fact, giving thanks doesn’t even have to mean that we’re happy about the situation or that we like it at all.

Thankfulness can simply be an offering: a hope and a faith put in a promise yet to be fulfilled. It’s a faith in believing God’s truth that “all situations work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

It’s persevering through the pain because we trust Him and believe in the promise, like the example given of many who have gone before us (Hebrews 11).

RELATED YVF VIDEO: “Acceptance With Joy” (subscribe here)

Thankfulness recognizes that it doesn’t have to be exactly how I want it for me to say “amen.” 

Instead, the act of giving thanks acknowledges–sometimes with tears–that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

How Am I Supposed to Be Giving Thanks Through This?

I’m like you–sometimes life’s difficulties make it nearly impossible to “see the thanks.” Truth be told, my wretched heart’s natural bent is to wallow in my misery, complain about the injustices and rail against the painful parts.

The last thing I want to do is to “give thanks for all things” as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 encourages me to do.

It’s during these times when the Holy Spirit steps in. In a gentle voice, he reminds me of those who walk beside me and who have gone before me (Hebrews 11; Hebrews 12:1-3) so that I don’t lose heart.

I think of the biblical story of Job–a man who watched his whole world collapse as his livelihood and family were taken from him–who still said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).

I think of Horatio Spafford–a modern day version of Job–who was able to pen the powerful hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” after the death of his daughters and the loss of his entire fortune.

I think of the friends whom I’ve watched succumb to horrible illnesses–wonderful men and women who were bright lights in this world–who overcame their tragic circumstances by choosing to say “God, please allow me to discover ways to give you the thanks for all aspects of this unspeakably awful part of my journey and let my life be a testimony to your faithfulness.”

I think of the thousands of Christians worldwide who right now are suffering extreme persecution, and the hundreds who, today, will willingly choose to give up their life before giving up their faith in God.

And I think of my Lord–the God-man beaten to a pulp, pinned to two splinter-filled planks of wood, and humiliatingly displayed before the entire city–who underwent such physical and emotional torture for no other reason than to say, “My darling daughter, this is what I’m willing to endure so that you and I can be in relationship together.”

Reflecting on these people and circumstances doesn’t change the difficulty of my own situation; but it changes my perception of it and opens the door to authentic thanksgiving.


4 Steps to Authentically Giving Thanks

If you’re finding it difficult to give authentic thanksgiving right now, first of all know that it’s OK.

We place an added shame on ourselves when we know we should be doing something (especially something that is right and good and that is encouraged because of a national holiday) and yet we don’t feel the emotion of thankfulness.

Acknowledge. Can I first encourage us to admit to these emotions? Can we be real enough with ourselves to see these places of inauthenticity and choose to desire something more?

Discover. Next, let’s do a little digging. Let’s write down everything about the situation and let those real emotions flow–even if they are painful to feel. We’ve got to be honest about all aspects of the circumstances so that we can identify the areas to bring healing.

Reflect. What are the areas here that are pleasant and easy? And which are unenjoyable and difficult? Most important of all, consider which aspects of the situation are blessings. Note that something doesn’t have to feel pleasant to be a blessing.Where have you seen God provide, bring hope, offer encouragement–even in this trial? And where do you see room for God to do even more miraculous things? Look to these as the starting point for that flow of authentic thanksgiving to occur.

Ask. Come face to face with those things that are gut-wrenching, unfair and challenging and ask for Him to bring you a different perspective. Ask for the supernatural ability to choose to be thankful during this trial, trusting that only He can provide the endurance and encouragement through the pain.

Search, dig, look for the authentic thanksgiving today. It may be tear-stained, covered by anger or drenched in frustration, and that’s alright.

Give every part of it as an offering to God, asking Him to give you the power to rise above the ugliness of the situation to discover the blessing.

Just like a pearl that is formed inside a oyster’s shell as a result of the oyster’s irritation by a grain of sand, great blessings are often released through acceptance and authentic thanksgiving.

More Posts on Giving Authentic Thanks

4 Ways That Acceptance with Joy Will Change Your Life Today

18 Bible Verses on Real Joy


And if this post encouraged you, be sure to share it with others so that they can be blessed too!

How can we give REAL thanks when life is FAR from perfect? We all need to hear this refreshing perspective on giving thanks during trials, especially during Thanksgiving.

About Alicia Michelle

As a wife and mom to four passionate kids, Alicia Michelle loves encouraging other moms with practical tips for joy-filled living in everyday life, especially in parenting, marriage, faith and health.Alicia is the owner/editor of Your Vibrant Family; the author of Plan to Be Flexible, The Back to School Survival Manual; and the creator/producer of the "7 Days to a Less Angry Mom Online Video Course,", Christ-Centered Christmas Resources and My Memory Box Organizing System. In addition, she is a monthly contributor for several popular family blogs, including her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Leave a Reply 31 comments

Deb Wolf - November 13, 2015 Reply

I can’t think of a family that doesn’t need this post. Everyone struggles and we get this idea that the holidays should be Hallmark commercial perfect. And disappointment sets in. Thank you for sharing truth and practical tips to help us be thankful in all circumstances. Blessings to you.

    Alicia Michelle - November 13, 2015 Reply

    Deb, thank you for sharing this. I completely agree… we all struggle with not having a perfect picture of that “Hallmark image” (as you so aptly stated it). So sometimes it’s easier to just not really give our authentic thanks. Sometimes it’s easier to stay numb and to not process those deeper emotions. My purpose in the post is to encourage us all (myself included) to dig deep and to discover how to find that authentic thanksgiving in the midst of the imperfect… because God is calling us to it! Thank you for your encouraging words here… Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Annette Tinholt Vellenga - November 13, 2015 Reply

ah, it is hard sometimes to give thanks. Some things seem too hard to bear at times.

    Alicia Michelle - November 13, 2015 Reply

    Annette, I completely agree. I don’t think God is asking us NOT to feel the pain, but to discover a different perspective in how to look at it.

Phyllis Sather - November 13, 2015 Reply

Great article. I’m working on it.

    Alicia Michelle - November 13, 2015 Reply

    Phyllis… I feel your authenticity here. Hang in there… I think we are ALL working on this! Thank you for your encouraging words.

Susan Raber - November 14, 2015 Reply

My dad passed away on Thanksgiving Day when I was 12, and for awhile it was difficult for me to feel thankful or celebrate anything without him. But the Lord is faithful, and although we feel sorrow, we can choose to be grateful for what we have and find sufficiency in Christ for what we don’t.

    Alicia Michelle - November 14, 2015 Reply

    Susan, these are wise words here. It sounds like there was great pain around that holiday for you for a long time (and understandably so). I’m so grateful that things don’t have to always make sense (or to be perfect) for God to redeem them. Thank you for sharing your heart here and for your testimony to His faithfulness.

Branson - November 14, 2015 Reply

This is something I just addressed with our teens, and it is something I admit I struggle with. I feel like I have been covering up the damage done by complaining when I call it “venting” to girlfriends. I need to work on keeping my attitude hopeful instead of feeding the struggle.

vmorgan456 - November 17, 2015 Reply

What a powerful message. Honestly we go through something every year it seems. God helps us through it thank goodness. That’s what I’m thankful for his strong hands! Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty

    Alicia Michelle - November 17, 2015 Reply

    Hi there! Yes, I think we will always have “something” that’s challenging or imperfect. That’s why I think he’s calling us to seek this deeper level of giving thanks. It’s never easy, but knowing that He loves us makes the pain have purpose. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

Trena Balakrishnan - November 24, 2015 Reply

Great reminder. Being “thankful” and being “happy” aren’t always the same thing! We are to “give thanks” for those lost car keys (that may have resulted in us not being involved in an auto accident) or maybe allowed us to witness to someone on the elevator that we would have otherwise missed. We don’t always SEE why God allowed that “trial” in our life, but we still need to be thankful for it. God sees the BIG PICTURE!
Thanks for sharing with #WhatToReadWednesday. Hope to see you again next week!

Across Cultures, Grandparents = Love! (What to Read Wednesday) | Classes by Beth - December 2, 2015 Reply

[…] Giving Thanks Through the Trials and Tears by Your Vibrant Family […]

Phyllis Sather - January 4, 2016 Reply

I’ve had trouble opening this for several days. But today when I really needed it it popped right up. Guess the Lord was saving it for today. Thanks for sharing these insights.

    Alicia Michelle - January 4, 2016 Reply

    Phyllis, I’m so glad to hear this! Yes, we’ve been having some issues the last few days with the site. But you’re right–it sounds like God made it available right when you needed it! Blessings to you in this new year.

Brandi Puga - October 3, 2016 Reply

This is a such a great reminder, especially during a time when people to believe that life has to be perfect or something is terribly wrong. Life isn’t perfect, and in that imperfection you have to find beauty. thanks for sharing this, i loved reading it! #SmallVictoriesSundaylinkup

    Alicia Michelle - October 6, 2016 Reply

    Wonderful! Yes, it is possible to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances. I wrote this when our family was enduring some hardships, and we’re continuing to face them. But I can truly testify that God’s peace is with us and is surrounding us! Being grateful and thankful has opened the doors for me to remain in His peace during this time.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here with us!

Mari - October 5, 2016 Reply

Alicia nice share thanks for dropping by on Turn it Up!

Secret Life of a Homeschooler - October 8, 2016 Reply

A timely reminder. Sometimes, it’s the little things. Thanks for sharing. #justanotherlinky

Lisa/Syncopated Mama - October 9, 2016 Reply

I don’t know how I would get through my days without Romans 8:28! Thanks for sharing this great post with us at #FridayFrivolity!

Welcome to Think Tank Thursday 10/13 | Saving 4 Six - October 12, 2016 Reply

[…] How To Give Thanks During Trials by Your Vibrant Family […]

Susan Evans - October 18, 2016 Reply

Contentment is something that can be learned. It is so foreign in the American way of life. I noticed in Guatemala where I grew up, that a large amount of people were content even in their poverty.

    Alicia Michelle - October 25, 2016 Reply

    Agreed. When I’ve traveled to other countries on short term missions, that is always the first thing that strikes me too, Susan! Perspective makes such a difference!

Sheryl Siler - November 2, 2016 Reply

Love this! Thankfulness can simply be an offering: a hope and a faith put in a promise yet to be fulfilled. It’s a faith in believing God’s truth that “all situations work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Karen - November 3, 2016 Reply

Beautiful. I will be sharing this with my 15 Days of Gratitude Challenge Members. Love that you stated that thanksfulness is not about being happy or feel that all is perfect, it is about faith and hope and trust.

    Alicia Michelle - November 7, 2016 Reply

    Thank you so much. 🙂 🙂 Yes, we can have happiness through any circumstance and any situation because our happiness is based on the unshakeable truths of God’s promises! Thank you for sharing!

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