This week, all around our nation, families will gather.  They’ll gather around perfectly adorned tables set with fine china and finer wine.  Others will gather in living rooms, squeezing close on couches, paper plates on laps.

For some, Thanksgiving- with all of its family, food, and football- is as good as it gets.  The best of the best.  Words of thanks spill out of lips effortlessly.  Because maybe it’s been a banner year.  Maybe the pregnancy test was positive, the wedding bells rang, the kids were on honor roll, and your wallet remains fat.

Still others will wake on Thanksgiving morning with an air of trepidation, hearts heavy with hurts and misgivings rather than joy and thanks-giving.  Maybe family represents heartache, and there’s no feast to be had.  Perhaps the pain is still too raw, the fear too heavy, the reality too… real… to want to celebrate.  Maybe the notion of giving thanks this year just seems ludicrous.

This Thanksgiving, we’ll gather.  And, whether we intend to or not, we’ll bring our stories, our experiences, our present and past realities- we’ll bring it all to the table.  With all of our turkey and casseroles and baggage and triumph, we’ll gather.

So, what can we do if thanks-giving doesn’t come easily this year?  What if we fall in the camp of heel-dragging, feast-lacking, “What are you thankful for this year?”-question-dreading people?

We give thanks anyway.

Not in a Pollyannaish, blind-eye-to-suffering way.  Or a fake smile, “I’m fine, it’s fine, we’re ALL FINE” kind of way.  But in a “I know that my Redeemer lives” kind of way.

What if all of us- those of us teeming with thanks along with those who are empty and dry- what if our gratitude and joy could flow from something more steady, predictable, and sure?  What if we could gather around the table, the living room, and the backyard this week confessing, “I don’t know what your year has held, but I know who has held me.”

Whether you’re limping to the table this year, wounded and weary, or skipping lighthearted and baggage-free, we can all unite under the truths that our God is the same.  Trophies or baggage, tears or laughter, we can always, always give thanks.  Because if all we have left is God Himself, then that’s all we’ll ever need after all.  And if His unchanging character is the only object of gratitude on our tongues this Thanksgiving, then I can think of no sweeter words to speak.

So, friends.  If all feels lost, and you have nothing left- I pray that you would cling to one truth this Thanksgiving: that, while rulers and friends and careers and money and prestige and family may come and go, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

We can give thanks that He is wholly just, even in the face of unspeakable injustice.

We can give thanks that God IS LOVE, even when vitriol and hate seem to be dominating.

We can give thanks that He is the good Father, even when we grow weary in our own parenting.

We can give thanks that God is the masterful Creator of everything, even when creation seems to be unraveling at an alarming pace.

We can give thanks that God is sovereign, even when life seems to be careening out of control.

We can give thanks that God’s strength is magnified in our weakness.

We can give thanks that our God is the Good Shepherd who pursues the one lost sheep when we feel like we’re too far gone for saving.

We can give thanks when we feel unseen and invisible because He numbers the hairs on our head and keeps watch over the sparrow.

We can give thanks when we look death and disease in the eye, knowing that our God heals and restores.

We can give thanks that God is always merciful even when our own compassion wanes.

We can give thanks that God is all-knowing and supremely wise when we just don’t know how to proceed.

We can give thanks that we don’t have to strive and hustle for grace because Jesus sat down after His work of salvation.

We can give thanks when we feel abandoned because Jesus- our Emmanuel– came.

We can give thanks that God has already won.  That death and Hell have been defeated.  That, yes, we can lament, but we need not wallow in despair and defeat.

Friends, we can give thanks this Thanksgiving because our God is unmovable and unchanging, steady and sure.  So, go right ahead and get to your Thanksgiving table.  Get to your people.  Whether you go limping or go dancing, may your steps land on these truths. And may you go giving thanks.