Oh, man. It’s been a tough couple of weeks. The world just feels heavy with suffering, from Yemen to California to Syria to the Florida Panhandle. Almost daily, it seems I learn of another friend or acquaintance who is facing their own personal sufferings, small and large. It’s hard to sit and watch it all happening, wondering what meaningful action I can take.

At the same time, it’s also the season of thanksgiving, a time to reflect on our gifts and blessings with grateful hearts. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday: no gifts, no hyper-commercialization (if you don’t count Black Friday, at least), and a celebration that is celebrated by almost all Americans, regardless of race and religion.

As I’ve been wrestling with the dichotomy between my own laundry list of blessings this year and the suffering in the world around me, I’m reminded of the passage from Ecclesiastes (3:1-8):

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

We all experience good times and difficult ones, and if there is one thing to know with certainty, it is that pattern will continue. For those in a season of suffering, it is important to remember that no matter how dark the night, “joy cometh in the morning.” It may look and feel different after a period of mourning, but the joy will return. For those in a season of laughter, it is important to remember that the easy times provide an opportunity to develop the tools that will carry us through the bad. The more we practice faith, hope, and gratitude in the good times, the easier they become when times get tough.

No matter what season of life you are experiencing now, I wish you faith, hope, and a spirit of gratitude today and throughout the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!