God

When Gratitude Is Gut-Wrenching

A Note From Erin: As I pondered what I wanted to write about Thanksgiving this year, my thoughts kept circling around the idea of giving thanks especially when celebrating is hard. I’ve had a painful year myself, marked by more than my fair share of relational turmoil, and Thanksgiving will be difficult this year. I know it will be tough for some of you as well. Before I started writing that post, I did some digging in our blog archives. (There’s gold in them thar’ hills!) It turns out I’ve faced hard Thanksgivings before. (And written about it.) This post is still true, and it is a comfort to me. I pray it will be a comfort to you if gratitude is gut-wrenching this year.

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

My greatest wish is that you will spend your day filled up with good food and enjoying strong connections with people who know you well and love you deeply.

But I know it doesn’t always work that way.

Our lives rarely look as perfect as we think they should. We are people, not pixels after all. Sometimes families fight. We hurt each other. Sometimes the people who are supposed to stick by us don’t. Sometimes we face disappointment, fear, and heartache. Sometimes anxiety eats at us even as we gather to eat together. (Sometimes especially then.) Sometimes our plates are empty and so are our hearts. When life is hard, it feels impossible to look to God and say, “Thank You.”

Giving thanks comes easy when everything’s coming up roses, but life is bound to grow some thorns.

Let me suggest something radical . . . the harder life gets, the more we should give thanks. I know, that doesn’t feel comfortable, but the ways God calls us to live rarely jive with what feels most comfortable to us.

Just ask Jonah.

He was in the belly of a fish when He prayed these words:

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9, emphasis added).

Jonah’s circumstances were difficult. God had given him a mission he did not want to accept. When Jonah rebelled, God first sent a nasty storm and then sent a nasty fish to swallow Jonah whole.

If God had called you to something hard, asked you to leave your home and your family, sent you into the eye of a terrifying storm and then into the belly of a whale, would “thank you” be the words that would come out of your mouth? When you prayed, would you do so with a “voice of thanksgiving”?

Yeah, me neither.

But Jonah did. And check out the result . . .

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land (Jonah 2:10).

Jonah gave thanks. God intervened.

Did Jonah’s “voice of thanksgiving” work like some kind of emergency brake, forcing God to change His circumstances? Nope. But giving thanks isn’t exactly about changing circumstances. It’s about changing hearts. Jonah forced himself to focus on what he could thank God for. In doing so, he was likely reminded of some bedrock truths like . . .

  • God is faithful.
  • God is good.
  • God is generous.
  • God has done great things for me.
  • God has forgiven me.
  • God is sovereign.
  • God is in charge. I am not.

Thanking God reminds us of the character of God, which only leads to more thanksgiving.

So when life is hard and storms are raging or you find yourself in a pit you don’t want to be in . . .

Give thanks.

How about you start right now?

Be specific. What hardship are you facing in your life right now? What can you be thankful for in the midst of that hardship?

PS: While I was digging around in the archives, I found these great shareable Thanksgiving images. We’d love for you to snag them and share them this Thanksgiving (and year round!).

About Author

Erin Davis

Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

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