How Can I Be Thankful When . . . ? Expressing Gratitude When Times are Hard
by Mark D. Roberts
Part 8 of series:
Thanksgiving: Not Just a Day, But a Season
How Can I Be Thankful When . . . ?
The Bible instructs us to be consistently thankful. In writing to the Thessalonian Christians, the Apostle Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes 5:18). This sounds nice enough, until you find yourself in difficult, even painful circumstances. Then, inspired biblical truth can feel like an insensitive platitude.
“How can I be thankful when . . . ?” Various scenarios complete the sentence. “How can I be thankful when this is the first Thanksgiving since my mother died? How can I be thankful when when my family is in such disarray? How can I be thankful when I’m in the middle of chemotherapy? How can I be thankful when I’m not even sure if I’ll have food for dinner tonight?” Throughout my years as a pastor, I’ve often heard this sort of question, especially as Thanksgiving Day draws near. People would really like to feel grateful, but their life circumstances seem to make genuine gratitude impossible. They feel stuck in discouragement and despair.
If we take the Psalms as a model for prayer, then we should certainly feel free, even obligated, to share with the Lord our frustrations and disappointments. Genuine prayer is not putting a happy face on our true feelings. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, or feeling afraid because you’re facing a serious illness, you should surely share these feelings with God in prayer. Being thankful in all circumstances does not mean pretending or denying.
But it does mean that we must look beyond our particular circumstances. Gratitude comes when we look at the bigger picture, when we remember the multitude of ways in which we are blessed, even if we’re also feeling sadness or fear or whatever else seems inconsistent with being thankful…
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