Being Thankful When It Is Hard To Be Thankful

I had a friend in college, who every Thanksgiving morning would send out a group text that said: Good morning! Happy Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for today?

I don’t know that I ever answered his texts, and I eventually got kicked off the group text for never answering. But now, every Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think about that question. What am I thankful for?

Sometimes it is easy to answer this question: we can be thankful for a new car, a new job, a promotion, a new house, new shows, new appliances, and so many other physical things. When things are going well, it is easy to find things to be thankful for.

But if we are honest, it is hard to be thankful when we look around and it is hard to find reasons to be thankful.

Ten years ago, when I celebrated my first Thanksgiving away from my family, I found it really hard to be thankful being so far away from my family, my cousins and my friends as they took part in our yearly festivities.

Six years ago, it was right before Thanksgiving that I was faced with the reality that I was dealing with depression.

Five years ago, I found out the weekend before Thanksgiving that my grandma passed away.

This year, I am still trying to work through some stuff with the help of my counselor that I have never worked through before.  

I can go on and on about curveballs that life has thrown at me that have made it hard for me to be thankful, especially on days like Thanksgiving.

Maybe you can relate to that this week.

Maybe as you read this, things are not going as planned. Maybe you were hoping things would be different or better. Maybe you were hoping some issues would be resolved. Maybe you had hoped your finances were in order or that some of your bills had been paid off.

Maybe this Thanksgiving, it is hard to find things to be thankful for.

But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Thanksgiving should not be about giving thanks for things. Maybe Thanksgiving should be about giving thanks to God for what God has done in our lives.

Let me explain.

Things are nice. They bring us joy and happiness. But only temporarily. When something happens in our life that is life altering or even inconvenient, these things stop bringing us the joy they used to bring us.

Maybe that is why giving thanks can be hard at times.

We say stuff like: sure, my car made me happy, but I still feel sad. Sure that promotion made me feel important, but I feel like I still haven’t accomplished anything.  Sure I have a house, but now that special someone isn’t here to enjoy it with me. I bought that new outfit, but I still feel insecure.

Things are great. But the joy and thankfulness that comes from things can go away very quickly.

So maybe this Thanksgiving, we need to not be thankful for things, and rather be thankful for circumstances.

In the book of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 we read this: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

I don’t know about you, but in this last year, I have experienced affliction in every way, I have felt perplexed a lot, I have even felt persecuted and struck down. But I am still standing today.

And let me tell you what. You reading this today, means that you are still standing today despite the things life has thrown at you.

Life may have afflicted you, but you have not been crushed. Life may have made you perplexed, but not to the point of despair. Life may have persecuted you, but you have not been forsaken. Life may have struck you down, but you have not been destroyed. By the grace and power of God, you are still standing today.

And maybe that is what giving thanks is about: stopping long enough to notice that we are still standing, despite the things that life has thrown at us.

So here is my challenge, on Thanksgiving day, I want you to think about that text I always received from my college friend: Good morning! Happy Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for today?

In that moment, I want to challenge you to think about all the situations that God has helped you overcome this year despite the fact that you have been afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down and so much more.

When you think about those moments, think about how you are still standing here today despite how tough and difficult those situations were.

Or maybe you are still going through those tough times. I want to encourage you to take a moment to notice how God has helped you come thus far. And because God is who God says he is, I promise you that God will help you go all the way through this time of difficulty.

My prayer is that in doing this we can begin to recapture what it means to give thanks this Thanksgiving Day.

Maybe, together, we can use this Thanksgiving Day to give thanks to God that he has helped us through to this point. And I truly believe that in doing so, we will experience true joy that comes from giving thanks.

Together on the journey,

Pastor Fernie

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