Thanksgiving. An anticipated day for many and yet a day of avoidance for others. Thanksgiving brings joy to some and despair to others.

Typically, when you hear the word “Thanksgiving” your mind will take you to a time where loved ones gather around the dinner table and enjoy a bountiful feast. There are a handful of reasons that this day of gratitude is a difficult one for many.

Sitting around the dinner table with an empty seat can certainly throw a wrench in the enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the day. The pain of losing a loved one or even having loved ones that can’t be in attendance seems to overtake the actual meaning of the glorious day. We all agree that the food on the Thanksgiving table pales in comparison to those special people in your life that sit around the table.

The Bible has a lot to say about suffering, pain, and grief. In fact, the Bible addresses these pains in great detail. If you are not a follower of Christ, what I am about to say may not make a lot of sense to you, but it really is true.

There is a JOY that can be found in suffering! Weird, isn’t it? Don’t misunderstand this biblical concept. The Lord isn’t saying to look for suffering, nor is He even saying be happy in the midst of suffering. We do not celebrate or look forward to suffering, but when it arrives, those who put their trust in the Lord know that suffering can be accompanied with Joy, trusting that the Lord will walk with us, faithfully, during our time of suffering.

Most importantly, when the believer suffers, they not only trust the Lord is with them and will be faithful to them but God also promises the believer that Earth is not our permanent place of residence. Earth is not our home, Heaven is. In Heaven, no more suffering, pain or loss!

The Bible says in 1 Peter, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” In the book of James, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

So, if Thanksgiving can be a tough time for you to navigate through, remember that God desires for you to be a person that has placed your faith in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, when difficulties come your way, remember that God is with you, will walk with you during dark hours of your life, and has promised you that a place has been reserved for you in Heaven with Him.

Lastly, consider the loved one that is not around the table. Rather than changing plans because it is too painful for you, consider what you believe the person at the empty chair would want you and your loved ones to do. It can certainly be tough stuff but be reminded that Thanksgiving is a season where we simply pause to thank the Lord for all of His many blessings that He has given each of us.

Pain, hurt and suffering can throw you a curve ball that seems impossible for you to catch; I would be honored to speak with anyone in our community if this is you. Feel free to call Portland First Baptist Church if you want to chat. On behalf of my family, we wish the entire city of Portland a very happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Tim Colovos is with Portland First Baptist Church.

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