2020 will go down in the history books as one of the toughest years of our lives. We’ve seen everything from violence in the streets to hurricanes on the coasts to wildfires in the deserts. And, oh yes, a global pandemic!

The ongoing illness of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic in March 2020. As of Oct. 31, more than 45 million cases have been confirmed with more than a million deaths.

The state of Indiana has seen some 180,000 cases with Henry County being declared a “hot spot.” Wearing masks and social distancing have become the new normal for Americans, but who wants to live this way?

In times like these, we should turn to the Bible. Surely, the Scriptures have words of inspiration and encouragement for such trying days, including pandemics. What does the Word of God have to say to help us make it through?

The Apostle Paul was writing the Christians at Thessalonica when he penned these powerful words: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Was he serious? “Everything” means “everything” and that would include COVID-19! How can we be thankful for a disease that has claimed the lives of over 5,000 Hoosiers?

How can we be grateful for something that has disrupted our lives and caused such pain? It’s imperative we read St. Paul’s words very carefully. He doesn’t say to be thankful “for” everything, but to be thankful “in” everything.

Not one of us is thankful for any kind of a sickness, but we do have the choice to be appreciative for God’s blessing in the midst of it.

Thanksgiving is not just words we say or acts of kindness we do. Thanksgiving is an attitude of the heart. It’s what defines us. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our outlook, good or bad, positive or negative, generous or selfish, reveals the true “us.”

Paul was this kind of person, and for good reason. He once had a financial need and the church at Philippi received a love offering delivered to him by his good friend, Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:8).

As a matter of fact, his epistle to the Philippians is actually a four-chapter thank-you note for their generosity. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul is telling these believers, as well as you and me, that we need to take on this same mindset.

This attitude of gratitude “in” the midst of suffering is not just a nice way to live, it is expected by God Himself! “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Luke told how Jesus had healed 10 lepers but only one returned to give thanks, prompting Jesus’ question, “But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17) Gratefulness to God is expected from you and me.

We’re all affected by this pandemic. Many of us know someone who has suffered with this virus. Some of those cases have been mild while others have been much worse, even fatal.

But it’s not just the coronavirus. It’s cancer or diabetes or heart disease. It’s a car accident or some other tragedy. It’s the loss of a loved one. It’s something for which we would never express gratitude, yet, in the midst of it, we can still be thankful to God for His help and comfort.

So how do we get to the place in our lives where we possess that attitude of gratefulness? It’s not something we acquire on our own. Only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can we display such a thankful spirit. “I can do all things through Christ …” (Philippians 4:13)

Things will be different this Thanksgiving. Maybe you won’t be able to go or the family won’t be able to come. There may not be as many people around the table that you’ve had in the past.

Perhaps some of those empty chairs are because someone has left us permanently. With whatever is happening in my life, I want to possess the Mind of Christ and an attitude of gratitude, not “for” a pandemic but surely “in” it.

The Rev. Danny Goddard is senior pastor at New Castle First Church of the Nazarene. He is a regular contributor to the Faith Perspective column.