How To Be Thankful When You Don’t Feel Like It

You Can be Thankful Even if You Don’t Feel Like It.

Every person goes through times in life when it is difficult to feel thankful. In these seasons of life it is important to discover what Scripture has to say about thankfulness. The believer in Jesus Christ has a hope, even in the midst of trial, that can enable him to give thanks.

Scripture Commands the Believer to Give Thanks.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Also, Colossians 3:17  states, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” This doesn’t make it easy, but when God gives a command, He also gives the believer the enablement to carry it out in obedience.

…But That Doesn’t Make it Easy!

It is difficult to give thanks when a person is discouraged. When stresses or trials of life are all that consume the mind, or when temptations and sins are given in to, or when overwhelming grief crushes the spirit, how does one look up in the midst of these distresses?

David, one of the greatest kings of Israel, experienced many trials. Much of his life was spent fleeing from his enemies: whether it was King Saul, who considered him a political threat; the surrounding nations, who feared him as a great warrior; or his own son Absalom who led a revolt and tried to steal the throne. In this last instance, David was forced to flee from his palace with only a handful of men who had remained loyal. Scripture says that David ascended the Mount of Olives weeping and barefoot with his head covered (2 Samuel 15:30). Yet, in the midst of his grief and affliction, when he reached the top of the mountain David worshipped God (2 Samuel 15:32). The thing that made David a great man of godly character was that he continually turned to the Lord in times of difficulty. Many of his psalms were written in times of trial. In them David pours out his grief and pain and distress, but then he turns his gaze upward in trust to the God who is in control and cared for him.

Job was a godly man who had great wealth, yet God allowed his possessions, his children, and his health to be taken from him. In the midst of Job’s great sorrow and pain, he did not blame or curse God. Instead he responded by falling down to the ground and worshipping God and saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21, NASB).

…But I don’t Feel Like Giving Thanks!

Feelings in and of themselves are not necessarily wrong. They are a natural response to situations surrounding us. Feelings often, however, are an indicator of where the heart of an individual is. The danger is when those feelings give rise to sinful thoughts of discontentment or worry, or are expressed in words of complaining. Scripture also commands the believer to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The believer is responsible to respond by thinking Biblically and acting Biblically, even if it goes against their feelings. One can choose to give thanks, even if one does not feel an elation of happiness and thanksgiving welling within them.

Trust that God is in Control.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” Romans 8:28-29 (NASB).

Romans 8:28 is a familiar verse, that can give hope in the midst of difficulty. It says that God causes all things to work together for good. Not just some things, but God uses each thing that comes into a believer’s life and He can be glorified in it. It doesn’t say all things are good, but that God works all things together for good. God has a purpose and plan for each believer. The believer who loves God can trust Him in the midst of a trial, knowing that He is ultimately in control. Verse twenty-nine clarifies the purpose which God called believers to: being conformed to the image of Jesus. The purpose of trails is to make the believer more Christ-like. The result of trials and testing is so that the believer might be purified of dross and his faith be purified like gold to the glory of God (1 Peter 1:7).

Discontentment is an Enemy of Thankfulness

Sometimes the lack of feeling thankful comes from simply not having what one desires. It is not just children who throw a tantrum when they do not get what they want. Adults have this tendency too, although it might not be manifested by kicking and screaming on the floor. Instead, discontentment is expressed through more civil forms of displeasure. Perhaps worry, complaining, moodiness, or anger is the outward manifestation of a discontented heart. Each of these is a sin.

Paul wrote to Timothy saying that having food and clothing was enough reason to be content (1 Timothy 6:8). Paul also wrote in Philippians 4:11, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (NASB) Paul wrote those words as he sat under arrest for his preaching of the gospel. He goes on to recount some of the situations he had experienced including: being hungry or filled, being humiliated or overflowing with blessing, and in suffering need. In each of these situations he had learned to be content. Paul was not content through his own strength, but Christ who strengthened him. If Paul could choose to be thankful and content even when his needs were not being met, should not the believer also choose to be content when God chooses not to give us the things we want?

Do we really believe that God loves us and as a loving Father wants to give what is best for us? God is not a tyrant who tries to make our lives miserable. Scripture describes Him as a loving Father who delights to give good gifts to His children (Luke 11:13, James 1:17). Do we really trust Him? Hebrews 13:5 says, “…Being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” One of the greatest reasons we can be content is that Jesus promises never to leave us. Whatever earthly desires may be denied, or whatever trials we may go through, we can rest assured that we are not alone – God Himself is with us!

How Can I Give Thanks?

Even if a believer does not feel thankful, he can still make the choice to give thanks. Choose not to focus on the trials or difficulties surrounding you. Instead, look upward to the God who is in control. Remember His love for you. Then, make the effort to give thanks. Make a list of the blessings God has given and focus on those. Choose to take all other thoughts captive, even if that is a moment by moment struggle. It takes a lot of effort to go against one’s feelings, but you are not alone. If you know Jesus as your Savior, He is with you in your trial, and He will give you the strength you need to be content. Scripture records examples of those who have gone before. Keep looking upward unto Jesus!

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, KJV).


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