Being Thankful When You Feel Anything But 11/22

, , The month of November abounds with multiple reminders to be thankful. Through print media, entertainment programs on television or streaming services, and social media outlets we are bombarded with images of families with bowed heads gathered around a perfectly set table. Groups, with which we associate, whether in church or other community organizations, often have programs emphasizing the importance of choosing to be grateful. Plus, such scriptures as Ephesians 5:20 tell us to be “always and for everything giving thanks.” Despite what the calendar says and the abundance of messaging received, we can find ourselves in this season feeling anything but thankful.
This can be the result of navigating through a very challenging season. We may be grieving the death of a loved one, battling a serious illness, experiencing a profound loss because of being laid off, or a marriage ending. The challenges may also include dealing with a child in rebellion, financial concerns, or struggles with addictions. During challenging seasons, we can remember that being thankful and walking through overwhelming circumstances are not necessarily dichotomous occurrences. One example of this in the Bible is in the short book of Habakkuk. In the exchanges between the prophet and the LORD, Habakkuk learns the trying times his country is undergoing are about to get even worse. However, in Habakkuk’s honest and raw expressions of concern, he begins richly understanding the LORD’s goodness and love and declares in Habakkuk 3:18-19: “Yet, I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.”
The Habakkuk passage encourages reflecting on the LORD’s attributes when feeling so immersed in troubled times may cause us to feel constricted in our ability to have a thankful attitude. Pausing from our challenges and thanking Him for being the Great I am helps transition our laments into outpourings of gratitude. The book of Psalms is filled with attributes of the LORD to lift up as prayers of thanksgiving. A few examples include: He is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9); His might is greater than the thunder of great waters (Psalm 93:4); and He is near to all who call on Him (Psalm 145:18). Furthermore, He is compassionate and gracious (Psalm 103:8); our refuge and fortress (Psalm 91:2); and father to the fatherless and protector of widows (Psalm 68:5). Lifting up prayers of thanksgiving for the immeasurable and unchanging attributes of the LORD helps us reap the benefit of finding hope in the midst of troubling circumstances.

Another strategy for propelling us towards gratitude is reflecting upon times He has shown Himself faithful. This includes recalling prayers He has answered. Many of us have testimonies of His responses to our petitions for healing, financial woes, tattered relationships, or a gamut of other situations. Or, we may have received a needed word of encouragement, guidance, or comfort. These precious words can be delivered through reading His written word, spoken by a friend, or multiple other ways, but they all share the commonality of being provided at the precise moment when needed. His faithfulness may have been experienced through sensing His calm and peaceful presence akin to a warm soft hug from a loved one during times of feeling overwhelmed, distraught, or confused. Reflecting on such experiences helps divert our attention from the barriers blocking our feelings of thankfulness to the One whose “faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 119:90). Shifting our focus to His faithfulness may be just the impetus for embracing a thanksgiving mindset.
Experiencing disappointments can also be a deterrent to being thankful. Proverbs 13:12 informs us “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” This is especially true when despite multiple prayers being lifted up over a prolonged period of time, the difficult circumstances linger. The promotion has not come, your child is still struggling at school, or we may have received only a lackluster response to medical treatment for a health concern. The hope of seeing the goodness of the LORD diminishes with each day that passes without resolution to our difficulties. Going through such a season the landscape of our lives seems dull, gray and littered with dashed expectations and weariness. The remedy is to continue praying and trusting the LORD. As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourages “Pray without ceasing”, we are to continue lifting up our requests for His perfect intervention within our difficult circumstances. Additionally, as we pray to the One “who gave life to everything” (Nehemiah 9:6) we can ask Him to help us be sensitive to His pouring out of His goodness upon us. His goodness can be seen in quietly unassuming ways including a beautiful sunset, a warm smile on a loved one’s face, or a pleasant and uplifting conversation with a friend. Even with the glaring disappointment(s) remaining prominent in our lives, searching for even the small but sweet ways the LORD is blessing us can move hearts ensnared with disappointment to being filled with gratitude.
Despite all of the messaging through social and mainstream media and the dates on the calendar indicating this is the season of thanksgiving, disappointments and challenges can make us feel anything but thankful. If we are struggling to feel grateful, we can still take heart, for we are cared for by the One whose love reaches to the heavens and faithfulness to the skies (Psalm 36:5). Remembering the One who promises never to leave or forsake us and recounting how He has seen us through every past challenge prepares us for entering “His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).