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How to be Thankful When You Just Aren't Feeling It

  • Rachel Dawson What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • Updated Nov 01, 2017

This month is one of my absolute favorites. I love the entire season of Fall, but I especially love the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving when it feels like more people are thinking about and expressing their gratitude. Every year, when I turn the calendar over to November, it feels like I’m pushing a reset button on my attitude and entering into a time where thankfulness is more present and acknowledged in my life.

We all have things to be thankful for all the time, but in some seasons of life, it can be hard to remember that. I entered November this year with some heavy things weighing on my heart, and I know many friends who feel the same way. It can be hard in times of transition, in times of grief and loss, in times of battling diseases, or in times of confusion to find things to be grateful for, but I’m reminded that Scripture tells us to be thankful in all things.

Heather Enright recently wrote a piece on “When Gratitude Feels Unnatural” for (in)courage where she shared her own story of finding gratitude in the midst of a hard season.

She shares how after the loss of their newly-born nephew, her husband told her “The Bible doesn’t say we have to be thankful for all things. But God asks us to be thankful in all things.”

Even if you don’t feel thankful for the season of life you’re in or for the circumstances you’re currently experiencing, we can still posture our hearts to be thankful to God during those times.

“In the waiting times, or in the heartbreaking seasons of grief,” she writes, “we have a choice to make. When we turn our despair into a deliberate confession that God is good even when our circumstances are not, that is offering one of the sweetest sacrifices we can to the One who sacrificed it all for us.”

The Bible shares many verses about giving thanks and expressing our gratitude to God (you can find 27 of them here!) and each one is a great reminder that we can truly find things to be grateful for in every circumstance.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In every situation, no matter how painful or confusing or miserable, we can cry out to God with hearts that are still thankful for his goodness, his faithfulness, his provision, and his plan.

“The sacrifice of thanksgiving says that even here, in this pit, I will choose to believe God’s goodness,” says Enright. “These offerings preach to our souls that God is working for our good even when we cannot imagine it. Such gratitude expresses that all God’s ways are for us although we cannot yet see.”

Several years ago, after reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, I started a gratitude journal of my own. I, too, wanted to list out 1,000 gifts I was grateful for, and this little pocket-sized journal was the perfect place to do it. I listed all the big ones first (God, my family, my home, my job and a steady paycheck, etc) and then started to dig a little deeper.

My list kept growing as I searched my heart and looked around at my life and realized there were so many gifts surrounding me. I wrote things like “the smell outside just after today’s thunderstorm” and “getting to watch the sunset overlooking the city tonight” and “the text from a friend that came just when I needed it.” These things weren’t huge or necessarily life-changing, but they were little gifts, and I was grateful for each of them. When I started shifting my perspective to look for the blessings around me, I began to truly have eyes to see them and a heart to acknowledge and appreciate them.

In the harder seasons of life, it’s often the little things that help us to keep going. It’s the smile from a stranger on the street, or the person in front of us at Starbucks unexpectedly paying for our drink, or the perfect song coming on the radio.

We might not be able to feel God moving in big ways all the time, but we can certainly seek him in the little things. These little gifts are reminders of our God’s great love for us, and we can always be thankful for that.

“Whether we feel like it or not,” Enright says, “we can publicly confess that God acts on our behalf behind the hidden doors of heaven for our eternal benefit even as we wait for this to be made evident.”

I encourage you to start a gratitude journal of your own. Having a goal of 1,000 gifts (or whatever number you choose) is a great motivation to be looking for those blessings throughout our daily lives, especially when we are in challenging circumstances.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds (Psalm 107:8). Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good (1 Chronicles 16:34) and because of his righteousness (Psalm 7:17). As we move toward Thanksgiving this month, let’s do so with hearts that find thankfulness in all things.

Photo credit: Unsplash

Publication date: November 3, 2016

Rachel Dawson is the editor of