5 Ways of Being Thankful Amid CHAOS and Family 


I have a friend who likes to sarcastically point out that on days like Thanksgiving, you cannot simply say, “Hey people, it is Thanksgiving, so be thankful today!” 

From his perspective, you must be in the right mood: thankfulness is a feeling. 

But is it?  

Before we ponder that question, let us “raise the stakes.” How do we be thankful when the world around us is swirling, and then…and then we mix family dynamics into what already feels chaotic? 


Part of navigating life is to know “where we are.” We are more than weary, there is a heaviness that hangs in the air: 

  • The war in Ukraine – with the wonder of when it will stop or grow. 
  • The war in the Middle East – with its own possibility of expansion. 
  • The war with China – we do not call it a war, but China’s expansion is very real, and they are effectively waging a war on many fronts. 
  • The culture wars – eroding the soul of our nation. 
  • The war in Washington – between political parties. 
  • The war for our kids in and around their schools. 
  • The list of war, conflict, and strife goes on.

Collectively, today, it feels like the worries and the wars of this world are whirling wider. It is not a single accelerating whirlwind. No, these dust-devils are duplicating at an alarming rate.  

Then, as if all this madness is somehow not enough for us, at Thanksgiving we add into this cyclotron, family! 

Family, complete with various opinions and history and more. 

We want to be “the follower of Jesus” who is winsome, who is approachable, who is welcoming and not judgmental, who is given a chance to show love and plant a seed of hope. We want to be that follower most of all for our family. 

These “wants” build up inside of us. The problem is that all these expectations can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behavior.  

We know the solution. We go to The Word. We ground ourselves in a Biblical perspective. 


#1: Understand the situation. 

Every situation is different. 

The chaos of the world crashes into each of us in very different ways. People and families unique. 

Even if the world were completely at peace; families are different. God has blessed us, and each member of our family, with different gifts and personalities. Then there is the history, often shaped by life events, some of which leave bruises. 

To prepare for the situation – pray about your family. Consider journaling. What parts of the world’s situation are heavier for your family than other parts? Has someone recently lost a job? Is someone serving in the military? Is someone deeply committed to an ideology?  

Think about them and pray for them. There is no need to be anxious. 

Remember Philippians 4:6-7: 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Note that God’s Word promises if you, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests, then God’s peace will guard your heart! 

#2 Recognize your own personal circumstance. 

You might think #2 is the same as #1, but here is the twist. Step #1 was you looking at all those around you. Step #2 is about you. 

Maybe you will merge these two steps into one. I find being more deliberate about “you and them,” can bring clarity.  

Ask the questions above about yourself. When you arrive and meet your family, you walk in carrying your own historical baggage, and further, the world today is impacting you.  

Maybe you just lost your job. Maybe you just had a relationship end or one that is troubled. Maybe you are extremely concerned about the war in Israel. 

And with you there is no “maybe.” If you are concerned about their spiritual condition, then you have an extremely specific theological point-of-view. 

Maybe, just maybe, you are a powder keg, primed and ready to explore.   

Do you even know that you are in this situation? 

Perhaps you are not a powder keg, perhaps you are in “a circumstance” that you believe is a bridge too far. 

God knows exactly where you are, and He wants you to turn to Him. 

Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

God’s will is for you to pray and give thanks in all circumstances. To do so requires you to know yours. 

#3 Acknowledge that God has placed these people in your path. 

Crazy Uncle Dave, or Annoyingly Agnostic Aunt Audrey, or Paula the Provoker—God has placed them all in your path. 

You might be thinking sarcastically, “thanks God.” Before you go there, pause, why might God send a follower of Jesus to them?  

Might God be asking you to love them? Might God be asking you to build into their lives enough that you could share your faith with them?  

Remember 1 Corinthians 1:4: 

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” 

Think about the context of this verse. The Apostle Paul is about write a hard letter to people he knows—and he writes that he “always thanks God” for them. 

Now, many people when they talk about these letters in the Bible speak as if “only Paul” is talking. But this is God’s Word. God’s Word is telling us, that when we find ourselves with people that are challenging, we are to be thankful for them. 

#4 Prepare to speak.  

If you have thought about the circumstances of those you will see, and thought about your own situation, and prayed about being thankful for them, then what will you talk about? 

I expect you will simply be curious about how they are doing. I expect you will be genuinely interested in how they are doing.  

Be prepared to talk about how you are doing. If God is doing something in your life, then share it—and do not edit God out of the story. You can easily frame your story with words such as, “I am not trying to push God on you, this is really how I feel and what I believe.” If that phrase does not work, find one that fits you, as a follower of Jesus. After all, if they are interested in you, then they will want to hear and learn about you. 

God will open all sorts of doors. Expect a question like, “So this ‘Jesus thing,’ is that personal, like a daily thing, for you?” Right now, if someone said that to you, how would you respond? 

Seriously, try and answer it right now. Do you sound winsome or religious? Do not be afraid to practice! 

 Remember 1 Peter 3:15: 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 

#5 Remember to Look Up—to God—and Give Thanks. 

Do not disconnect from God. You have spent time praying and thinking about others, about yourself, about how God placed these people in your path, and even about what to say—do not forget to look up in thankfulness. 

He loves you. Your actions are not a performance to impress Him or earn His love—they are a response to His love.  

Remember 1 Chronicles 16:34: 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  

Remember Psalm 56:4:  

“In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”  

Remember Psalm 28:7:  

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” 


I started sharing my rather sarcastic friend’s conclusion: thankfulness is a mood, a feeling. But in reality, we can take steps to be thankful—thankfulness is a decision.