When You Don’t Feel Thankful
This is a safe place, right? Well here’s the deal: I genuinely want to jump into Thanksgiving with an overflowing heart of gratefulness. I really do. But one friend just buried her brother, another got laid off three days before Thanksgiving, and another is facing an unwanted divorce. Not to mention, I HATE how certain family members won’t be joining us for turkey and pie yet again this year, because life is just too short.
Then there’s the Texas and Vegas shootings still lingering in my mind, as well as the high-strung political climate that’s saturating our nation (and the media). Even managing our own blessings can be embarrassingly overwhelming at times, with bottomless laundry, scattered schedules, and you know—life.
The truth is, we don’t always feel thankful.
But as Lysa Terkeurst says (and it’s always stuck with me), “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.” I recognize it would be straight ridiculous to trade a grateful-packed Thanksgiving for one of anxiousness, fear, and frustration. I’m no businesswoman, but that’s definitely not a good deal. And certainly not what God wants for us! So how do we dig up thankfulness when we don’t feel thankful? How do we cultivate a heart of gratitude without it being forged or forced?
Thankfulness is a choice, not a feeling.
Even if you don’t feel thankful at this very moment, good news: YOU CAN STILL BE THANKFUL. Thankfulness is a choice, not a feeling. Choosing to be grateful doesn’t mean we’re no longer hurting, confused, or worried. In fact, thankfulness is often found and praises usually offered in the confines of bittersweet spaces.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
All throughout history, God’s people have found a way to worship Him despite their circumstances. Offering praises to our Creator God isn’t contengient on good or bad days, fertility or infertility, job or no job, the stock market being up or down—not even life or death. The verses below were written by David, when he was stuck in the wilderness of Judah:
“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the riches feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.” Psalms 63:3-5
We can be thankful because God is faithful, even when we are not. We can be thankful because of the unending mercy and grace He pours out on sinners, like me, who put their trust in Him. We can pause long enough to give thanks for the timeless and life-changing Word of God, as well as loving families, real friends, warm houses, tasty food, freedom to worship openly in our churches and homes, the future resurrection of our loved ones in Christ, the breath literally spiraling through our lungs at this very moment, amazing teachers/mentors, God’s provision, and the list goes on and on and on.
(I would encourage you to take five minutes and scribble down a list of at least twenty-five things you’re thankful for. I did this and was surprised by all that came to mind once I started writing. Also, listen to THIS.)
We don’t always feel thankful, but we can still be thankful.
We can surrender our hardships and disappointments over to God—the unshakable One—and choose to praise Him for who He is, despite our pain. Maybe even in our pain.
“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping Him with holy fear and awe.” Hebrews 12:28
Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.
And as for me, I’m choosing thankfulness.