When Gratitude Is Gut-Wrenching

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

My greatest wish is that you will spend your day filled up with good food and enjoying strong connections with people who know you well and love you deeply.

But I know it doesn’t always work that way.

Our lives rarely look as perfect as we think they should. We are people, not pixels after all. Sometimes families fight. We hurt each other. Sometimes the people who are supposed to stick by us don’t. Sometimes we face disappointment, fear, and heartache. Sometimes anxiety eats at us even as we gather to eat together. (Sometimes especially then.) Sometimes our plates are empty and so are our hearts. When life is hard, it feels impossible to look to God and say, “Thank You.”

Giving thanks comes easy when everything’s coming up roses, but life is bound to grow some thorns.

Let me suggest something radical . . . the harder life gets, the more we should give thanks. I know, that doesn’t feel comfortable, but the ways God calls us to live rarely jive with what feels most comfortable to us.

Just ask Jonah.

He was in the belly of a fish when He prayed these words:

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9, emphasis added)

Jonah’s circumstances were difficult. God had given him a mission he did not want to accept. When Jonah rebelled, God first sent a nasty storm and then sent a nasty fish to swallow Jonah whole.

If God had called you to something hard, asked you to leave your home and your family, sent you into the eye of a terrifying storm and then into the belly of a whale, would “thank you” be the words that would come out of your mouth? When you prayed, would you do so with a “voice of thanksgiving”?

Yeah, me neither.

But Jonah did. And check out the result . . .

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (Jonah 2:10)

Jonah gave thanks. God intervened.

Did Jonah’s “voice of thanksgiving” work like some kind of emergency brake, forcing God to change His circumstances? Nope. But giving thanks isn’t exactly about changing circumstances. It’s about changing hearts. Jonah forced himself to focus on what he could thank God for. In doing so, he was likely reminded of some bedrock truths like . . .

  • God is faithful.
  • God is good.
  • God is generous.
  • God has done great things for me.
  • God has forgiven me.
  • God is sovereign.
  • God is in charge. I am not.

Thanking God reminds us of the character of God, which only leads to more thanksgiving.

So when life is hard and storms are raging or you find yourself in a pit you don’t want to be in . . .

Give thanks.

How about you start right now?

Be specific. What hardship are you facing in your life right now? What can you be thankful for in the midst of that hardship?

About Author

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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