In America we will celebrate Thanksgiving this week. It is a time to gather together with family and friends and celebrate with good food—we look forward to it. And yet the realities of living in a broken world don’t disappear because it is a holiday. As you prepare your heart and mind for Thanksgiving, do so with your eyes wide open.

Here are some of the realities you may face.

Is someone missing from your table this year? The sorrow of the passing of a loved one is a grief that will shadow all other joys. There is an empty chair. The loss could be recent or years in the past, no matter the circumstance the absence is heartbreaking. Remember, your Jesus promises to wipe away every tear. You can take both your sorrow and your joy to him. Remember the Christian life holds up both realities at the same time.

So as you enter your thanksgiving meal, aim for genuine expressions of faith in your words. Speak about your joys and speak about your sorrows. Let others help carry this burden of grief, just as your Heavenly Father carries it with you.

Will you be alone this year? Has work or school, military service, singleness, divorce, or an empty nest left you facing the holiday season on your own? Or have you isolated yourself from friends and family? When we are able to celebrate with loved ones, we easily forget that there is a lot of hype in our culture about happiness and tradition that is actually very empty. Even so, when we are alone, we can sense the emptiness more keenly. The result is often a feeling of being even more alone.

Remember, your Lord is near. You are never alone. As a believer you are united to your brothers and sisters around the world. Take time to ponder what that great feast will be like in Heaven and what it will mean to never again experience aloneness.

Is there division in your family? Are you worried about going home to judgment, demeaning looks, and harsh words? Is there a person who is unpredictable, who flips on a dime and can ruin any good gathering? Have you caused division? Broken relationships create an environment of uncertainty and fear. It makes families not want to be together. And as the years pass the hope of change fades to the past.

Don’t lose heart. Have courage. Take up the call to love, to intervene, to repent, to move toward. Pray now that God will go with you. Pray for discernment. Ask God to show you what wise love looks like and does.

Do you have much to be grateful for? Does the newness of a relationship have you relishing every moment? Are your children all at home, your heritage near and beautiful? Has the Lord restored a broken relationship once considered to be beyond repair? Your experience of God’s blessing shouldn’t end only in gratitude.

Let your joy move you outward in compassion. Be on the lookout for who you can love. Let your speech (in person and on social media) reflect a gentle compassion for the many around you who need encouragement and love. Who can you visit? Who can you call?

You do have much to be grateful for. After Jesus ascended into heaven, we as believers entered a season of thanksgiving. The Savior is reigning in heaven. Hallelujah! We have this joy in common regardless of where we come from. We are all heading to a feast that no one can match, to sit at a table with our Savior. At this feast, no one is missing. You are surrounded by other joyous believers. And peace will reign.

Whatever your circumstances, keep your eyes wide open to this final reality. Allow it to cheer you, to comfort you, to humble you, to influence all you say and do this Thanksgiving.

There is a song by dear friends to our ministry called Suppertime. David and Sharon Covington are musicians living in California. As you take time to listen to this song, notice its multiple meanings. It points to the ordinary delights of family. It references our participation in the Lord’s Supper. And it celebrates the Great Wedding Banquet to which the Lord has invited us.

Enjoy these three additional free resources: