Giving Thanks (When You Really Don't Feel Like It)

The fall of 2013 was the hardest fall of my life. In September, my mom’s cancer took a turn for the worse, and she ended up passing away in mid-October.

When Thanksgiving rolled around, we decided not to celebrate. We went to the movies instead. I avoided social media for a whole week. We didn’t even eat pie. In the wake of my mom’s death, the last thing I wanted to be was thankful. Still, to this day, I cringe a little inside as I see my friends' perfectly posed Instagram photos of their families on Thanksgiving, knowing that my Thanksgiving table will forever have an empty chair.

Giving thanks can be hard, especially when it seems like life has given you every reason not to be thankful. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells to give thanks in all circumstances. In the good, the bad, the hard, the joyful – as Christians, we are supposed to be marked by our thankfulness. How then, can you be thankful, when you really don’t feel like it?

Here are a few things to remember this week:

Thankfulness is cultivated.

If I want to be thankful, I need to practice being thankful. I think this is especially true when life doesn’t seem to be going my way. If thankfulness is already a part of your routine, when life takes an unexpected turn or you are having a rough week, it will be much easier to continue to be thankful. 

What are some ways you can you cultivate thankfulness?

Start a thankfulness journal where you write down 5 things you are thankful for every day. Write thank you notes to people in your life that you are thankful for. Start every meal with friends by sharing something you are thankful for. Or place sticky notes around your bedroom with things you are thankful for written on them.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of work or time to cultivate a discipline of giving thanks into your everyday! 

Thankfulness goes beyond social media. 

Thanksgiving Day Instagram posts, Facebook feeds, and tweets – while all good intentioned things, can often make being thankful even harder (when you already aren’t feeling it). So, my tip? Shut off your phone and spend time with the people in front of you. Share stories around the table, pray together, play games; don’t fall into the comparison trap.

Thankfulness is so much easier when you are focused on what is in front of you, instead of what isn’t.

Thankfulness should lead us to worship. 

As we cultivate thankfulness this Thanksgiving, we need to remember why we are thankful. God is the giver of good gifts. Ultimately, everything we have and are comes from God. Our very existence is in His hands. As we give thanks, who better to thank than our creator and sustainer?

As you unplug and cultivate thankfulness this week, it is my prayer that your thankfulness will lead you to worship and that in all circumstances you will give thanks and praise to God.

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This Thanksgiving is the fourth Thanksgiving without my mom. We aren’t cancelling Thanksgiving this year. Instead, we are heading to Vermont to spend the holiday skiing and celebrating with long time family friends. We will spend Thanksgiving dinner in a ski cabin in the middle of the woods. We will share stories, we will eat pie, we might even build a snowman. But most importantly, we will give thanks, even though we are missing someone at the table.

About the Author
Campus Staff Minister

UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND

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