The Bible tells us to "be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 Phillips). That command turns on the last phrase, "whatever the circumstances may be." It's one thing to praise God when you've got a good job, your marriage is strong, your kids are doing well, your career is on track, and your health is good. But giving thanks becomes a completely different challenge when your boss says, "We don't need you any more," you run out of money, your marriage ends in divorce, your children struggle, and the doctor says you've got cancer.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because it seems like more friends have been hit in more ways than any year I can remember.

How do you give thanks when your circumstances stink? The quick answer is, you don't deny your circumstances or pretend that things aren't difficult, but you find reasons to give thanks that go beyond what you can see around you. In the hard moments of life we must return to the God whose love for us does not change.

Here are some reasons to give thanks as we come to the end of a year that has been difficult for many people. We give thanks because . . .

1. God is sovereign over all things.

2. He causes all things to work together for our good and his glory.

3. Heaven is real.

4. Jesus has triumphed over sin and death.

5. When we are weak, he is strong.

6. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. God uses the worst that happens to make us more like Christ.

8. Our salvation rests on God, not on us.

9. Evil will not reign forever.

10. His grace is sufficient for every situation.

11. Weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning.

12. Even when we feel alone we are not alone.

13. God's plan for us far exceeds our puny imagination.

14. Miracles still happen.

15. The Holy Spirit lives in us.

16. Our doubts cannot cancel God's purposes for us.

17. Nothing is impossible with God.

p>18. There is no pit do deep that the love of God is not deeper still.

19. The Lord Jesus prays for us when we are too weak to pray for ourselves.

20. God will be faithful to finish his work in us.

21. Our desperate prayers matter to God.

22. Our pain equips us to minister to others in pain.

23. Jesus will never leave us.

24. We are still God's children even when our faith falters.

25. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory.

Eugene Peterson nicely captures the meaning of verse 18 this way. "Thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live" (MSG). No one gets a free ride through life. Even the happiest people know their share of sorrow. And some people seem to receive far more than their share of pain. We will never be able to give thanks always without the Holy Spirit's help. Left to ourselves, the pain of life will drive us to bitterness and ultimately to despair. But when we factor God into the equation, when we rest upon the rock of his sovereignty, then and only then do we have the grounds for saying "Thank you, Lord," no matter what happens around us.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.