Thanksgiving and Grief

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day where we meet with loved ones to celebrate and thank God for all His blessings. We usually find it easy to give thanks when we are surrounded by family and friends, enjoying a bountiful and delicious meal, and remembering all the things we recognize as blessings in our lives.

Yet Scripture promises us that when we approach the Lord with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, He will give us His peace that passes all understanding. Not just when we are enjoying friends, food, joy, and the so-called good things in life. But always.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Thanksgiving for our family this year was very different than planned. My niece, who had turned 53 years old the day before and had no known serious medical conditions, went to be with the Lord early Thanksgiving morning. We are happy for her that she is whole and healthy and happy in Heaven, but those left behind are devastated. This is not what we expected. How can we celebrate and give thanks in the face of such loss?

The Bible reminds us not to grieve “as others do who have no hope.” God’s Word doesn’t tell us not to grieve, but not to grieve as those who have no hope. We have hope—faith, assurance—that while we may be separated from our beloved family member for now, we will be together again.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Yes, we grieve today and in the days ahead. But we will approach God with prayers and supplication—and, yes, with thanksgiving. He will give us His peace that passes understanding in our grief, and one day we will be reunited not only with the amazing woman who died today, but also with all of the beloved family members and friends who have gone into our Father’s mansions.

Lord God, Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, in the midst of our grief, we come before You with thanksgiving. We thank You for the lives of who have gone before us. We thank You that they knew You as their Savior and that they are happy and healthy with You today. We thank You for Your peace that passes understanding. Most of all, Lord, we thank You that because Jesus died for our sins, we will spend eternity in Heaven with You and with believing loved ones. In His name we pray. Amen.

TO our prayers, O Lord, we join our unfeigned thanks for all thy mercies; for our being, our reason, and all other endowments and faculties of soul and body; for our health, friends, food, and raiment, and all the other comforts and conveniences of life. Above all, we adore thy mercy in sending thy only Son into the world, to redeem us from sin and eternal death, and in giving us the knowledge and sense of our duty towards thee. We bless thee for thy patience with us, notwithstanding our many and great provocations; for all the directions, assistances, and comforts of thy Holy Spirit; for thy continual care and watchful providence over us through the whole course of our lives; and particularly for the mercies and benefits of the past day; beseeching thee to continue these thy blessings to us, and to give us grace to show our thankfulness in a sincere obedience to his laws, through whose merits and intercession we received them all, thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer, Family Evening Prayer
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