Three Strategies for Nurturing Gratitude When Thankfulness Is Hard

November 20, 2019

The season of Thanksgiving on the calendar doesn’t always coincide with a season of thanksgiving in our lives. If you’re struggling to embrace the true purpose of the holiday—or having difficulty finding things to be thankful for because of the circumstances you’re facing—here are a few ideas to help you.

Spend time in the Psalms.

Adoration and thanksgiving are two of the recurring themes in the book of Psalms. Hundreds of verses throughout the book offer words of gratitude to God for everything from His creation (Psalm 8:3-4) to His mercy (Psalm 136:1). The spirit of thankfulness found in Psalms can be contagious, if we allow it to be.

The psalms of David are a great place to start. David enjoyed a relationship with God that was unlike any other. God Himself referred to David as “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). That unique relationship is on full display in Psalms 9, 34, 145 and others. The heartfelt gratitude David expresses to the Lord can serve as a template for anyone who wants to give thanks in new and creative ways.

Get a second opinion.

Sometimes other people have a better perspective on our blessings than we do. Good things that we take for granted or unintentionally overlook may stand out to sharp-eyed observers. So why not invite people you trust—people who have a vested interest in your spiritual growth—to examine your life and share what they see?

In passages such as Ephesians 5:19-20 and Colossians 3:15-17, the apostle Paul encourages his readers to give thanks for God’s work in their lives. Likewise, our own spiritual mentors can shine a light on things in our life to be thankful for.

Expand your search beyond the obvious.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers; sold into slavery; imprisoned for something he didn’t do; and forced to spend most of his life in Egypt, a foreign land, apart from his family. Yet he found plenty to be thankful for. He was able to see past his own suffering to get a sense of God’s bigger picture.

When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to plead for food in the midst of a famine, they were stunned to find not only that their brother was still alive, but that he also held their fate in his hands. They begged for his forgiveness and mercy.

And in Joseph’s response to his brothers, we find a profound truth that has special resonance in this season of thanksgiving. “You meant evil against me,” Joseph pointed out, “but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (see Genesis 50:20). Joseph saw God’s hand at work in the setbacks of his life. He recognized the extraordinary good that God brought from them.

If we can find that same perspective in our lives, we’ll discover a never-ending stream of things to be thankful for.

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