Each year we are asked to give thanks nationally, in our families and personally. But what if this year you don’t feel very thankful? 

I appreciate the Thanksgiving perspective. Gratitude is extremely uplifting and there is healing power in taking time to thank God for all that is good in our lives. But if you aren’t “feeling it” right now, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Lots of people aren’t feeling very grateful.

This year my husband and I have lost several close friends. They left behind grieving spouses, children with unresolved parental issues and friends who don’t want to adjust to a “new normal” that excludes someone they loved. 

One of my friends had her first chemotherapy appointment this week. She is only 40 years old. Her cancer is advanced and advancing. She is fighting for her life although the prognosis is poor. She’s not feeling very thankful.

One of our chaplain friends was fired a few months ago. He and his wife are approaching retirement age, but not there yet. They depended on his income. He’s not feeling very thankful at the moment either.

When I look around our community I see a huge surge in homelessness, addiction, mental health crises, loneliness, broken relationships and broken hearts. Sometimes it’s difficult to be thankful when life feels really hard.

The holidays are difficult when God seems far away and in His place there is a gnawing aching void, an ever present reminder of what has been lost, never was and may never be. 

I’d like to suggest that this year, instead of “pretend gratitude,” we choose authenticity. What if in 2019 being thankful means we make a conscious decision to surrender our struggles instead of acting like they don’t exist?

God doesn’t promise to explain things to us. In fact, He says we should quit trying to understand Him. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

In times of suffering, gratitude means choosing to believe that God is who He says He is. The creator of the universe and everything in it are good. He is overflowing with love. He is on your side even when you don’t feel Him, especially when you don’t feel Him. 

Whatever you are struggling with this year, let Thanksgiving remind you of God’s faithfulness. He can still bring beauty out of the ashes that right now are blurring your vision and clogging your nostrils. 

He wants to reveal His great love for you.

Sometimes, hard as it is to believe, I remind myself that if I knew everything God knows, I might choose to be exactly where I am. When you think life has completely blown God’s “Plan A,” remember that He doesn’t have a “Plan B.” He only has a restored “Plan A.”

We should worship God and trust that He walks with us in the valleys just like He does when we are bouncing around on the mountaintop. He never leaves us. He never will. Nothing can ever separate us from His love.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus.”

One scripture that baffled me for many years is Hebrews 13:15. “ With Jesus’ help we will continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by telling others of the glory of his name.” When is praise a sacrifice? When we set aside our pain and worship Him anyway. 

Let the sacrifice of praise become your Thanksgiving tradition until you feel truly grateful again. 

•••

Sylvia Peterson is a former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and an author. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net.

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