Giving Thanks When We Don't Feel Like It

By Rev. Ian D.L. Hyde

Originally Published November 2017

Thanksgiving weekend will soon be upon us. For some, it is a weekend of family and friends, a break from the hustle and bustle of work, a time of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy, and pumpkin pie. For others, it’s a weekend of cooking, and cleaning, busily planning for Christmas, putting together lists, and buying decorations and gifts. And still for others, it can be a time of loneliness, as the pain of loss and separation becomes all the more poignant as television commercials and social media feeds fill with images of smiling friends and happy families.

And yet, whatever our circumstance, or our feelings regarding the holiday season, the Bible reminds us that we are to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God,” (Phil. 4:6). But how does one give thanks when we don’t feel like it? How do we praise when worries drown out all other thoughts?

I think a clue can be found among the Psalms. Over and over again, the Psalmists cry out to God with broken hearts in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations, and yet they find the strength to proclaim their trust in the everlasting faithfulness of God to see them through. This is because they belonged to a community which defined itself by its Covenantal relationship with a loving and faithful God, who had performed mighty deeds in the past and would do so again.

In the same way, we belong to a community which defines itself by its relationship to Christ, who lovingly and faithfully sacrificed himself so that we could be redeemed and restored. The mighty deed performed on our behalf was one of suffering and triumph, and the God who walks with us does so in the midst of our suffering. So, though we are not always promised prosperity or a season free from pain or loss; we can still be thankful for the love God has shown us, as we find healing in reflecting that love out on to our family, neighbors, community, and world.