When it’s Sunday before Thanksgiving, and the kids will be off the whole week, you just want to hide under the covers. Can we just skip over this silly holiday?
Before 7 am, I can hear the rumbling of the kids.
One child awakes with a positive outlook on life, ready to take on the day.
“I can’t wait to get to church and get dollars.”
And another awakes with a negative response to every positive statement. Such a pessimist.
“Yeah, well, they don’t give dollars on Sunday.”
“It’s going to be so much fun! We get to see all our friends.”
“No one we know will be there since we are at the later service.”
“The mac-n-cheese was so good at school.”
“But the meat was nasty, and I didn’t eat it.”
Most Thanksgiving I can’t wait for all of us to gather around the table and give thanks for all God has given us. This year feels different. Maybe it’s the move. Or maybe it was the fact that none of our family could be here this year. Maybe it’s because I wanted just to sulk while God was inviting me to experience a miracle.
All I know is this Thanksgiving I can’t seem to shake the negative. I feel like my pessimistic child who has a negative for every positive.
I am thankful for my kids, but they argue and are so unkind most days.
I am thankful for our home, but I hate where we live…in the middle of nowhere.
I am thankful for God, but I am so far from where I should be.
All these negatives drown out the peace God so freely gives us.
We all struggle to be thankful…
Instead of feeling excited and grateful, you feel sad, disgruntled, or lonely.
Maybe you’re feeling discouraged about where you are in life, being constantly hit with setbacks. Maybe you have recently lost a loved one, and you’re carrying intense grief. Maybe you’re single and wished you were married. Maybe you’ve been experiencing rejection and the holidays are a haunting reminder of what could be or what once was. Loneliness and guilt can quickly steal joy and peace.
I began to ask the Lord, “There has got to be more than making a list of what I’m thankful for? I need my heart to be truly grateful.”
Just saying thanks without sacrifice is just lip service.
My children say thank you all the time, yet sometimes their hearts are far from being truly thankful.
How do we become truly thankful when we’re not feeling thankful?
In the questioning I am reminded of two things:
First, it’s ok to feel this way.
We have to allow ourselves to feel to heal. Allow yourself to grieve. Nothing is healthy about sweeping your feelings under the rug. Resist the urge to make yourself busy and distracted to forget about pain and loss. Sit before the Lord. Find His face and allow Him to remind you of who you are…His Beloved. Sit there as long as you need; everything else can wait. Only He can heal your hurt. Call a trusted friend, share your struggles, and pray together.
Second, let giving cultivate a thankful heart.
Sometimes radical giving is what cultivates a thankful heart. Send a friend a card who’s been struggling lately. Make a meal for someone in need. Buy a cup of coffee for that homeless person you pass every day to work. Give a financial gift to your local church and/or a charity. Leave an extra tip to a waitress in need. Such small gestures with high reward. Allow your heart to see and feel the hurting world, and it just may change your outlook.
Jesus, our perfect example, gave thanks and then gave.
“He took the seven loaves and the fish, and He gave thanks…and kept on giving..” Matthew 15:36.
“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them..” Matthew 26:27.
A thankful heart gives. But maybe this year the thankful heart will precede the giving. Once you give, your heart will be more grateful than ever before. Your “thanks” will mean so much more when you see how blessed you are. Your Thanksgiving will be an outpouring from our ever-present God who fills our aching hearts with mercy and love.
This year instead of writing all the things I am thankful for, I write ways I am going to give. Not because I want to add another thing to my to-do-list, but because I deeply want my heart to be moved.
When you’re not feeling very thankful, try sitting before the Lord and then give.
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