Why Be Thankful When You Don’t Feel Like It?

We cried as we drove past the property we wanted to purchase. It had sold. It wasn’t until four years later that we learned the answer to, “why be thankful when you don’t feel like it?

Why be thankful? (That is a good question)

There are many moments in life when we just don’t want to be thankful.

  • When your spouse tells you he or she is leaving
  • When your child has a serious illness
  • When you lose your job
  • When the love of your life dies
  • When you receive a terminal diagnosis
  • When your home is wiped out by fire or flood
  • You fill in the blank _____________. What are you facing now that has you asking, “Why be thankful?”

This list is often called the storms of life because they feel so tumultuous. They wreak havoc with our emotions and sometimes throw us into a tailspin. In these moments we wonder, “How will I possibly survive emotionally, financially, or spiritually?” I know. I have experienced some of the storms listed above, and I have asked, “Why be thankful when you don’t feel like it?”

Why be thankful? (There is always a bigger picture)

Yes, we cried as we drove past our perfect property that someone else had purchased. Four years later when our area experienced a “storm of the century”, we learned that our perfect property was not so perfect after all. The house and land were flooded with 5 feet of water. In retrospect, we are so thankful that God did not allow us to locate there. Hindsight is always better than foresight.

In the Bible, there was a life storm for the Israelites as they left Egypt, and approached the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Suddenly the weather changed for the worse. Can you imagine how terrifying it had to have been with the wind blowing furiously and the enemy army advancing? The Israelites were not feeling the least bit thankful and complained bitterly. However, the “weather” storm was necessary to save their lives. The “advancing army” storm was necessary to save their faith.

Why be thankful? (It is so hard sometimes)

Why is it so hard sometimes to be grateful? I am not talking about our initial shock when something difficult comes into our lives. But once we recover a bit, there are some factors that make it harder to be thankful.

Attitudes

Some attitudes make gratitude hard to come by. People who are materialistic often neglect to find joy and gratitude in what they already have. Akin to that is being envious of others. The third are people who feel entitled to have more, thereby not seeing anything as a gift.

Lack of practice

“Gratitude might feel harder, or maybe just less natural for some of us. The good news is that research suggests we may be able to actually train ourselves to become more grateful—and that’s something we can all be grateful for.” (1)

Training our brains includes activities such as writing letters of gratitude to others, or keeping a gratitude journal. The physical mechanics of writing along with the mental exercise go a long way towards re-wiring our brains.

Why be thankful? (When you don’t feel like it)

Young woman standing by her car which is broken down along the road. This is an example of a time when we might ask, "why be grateful when you don't feel like it?"

“Easily accessible and available to everyone, the practice of gratitude will benefit every area of your life and generate a positive ripple effect.”

This is a quote from Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, who has authored several books on gratitude. One of his publications is “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier“, published in 2007.

It amazes me that gratitude is considered new by many of the sciences. Penned several thousand years ago, Scripture tells us that gratitude is a key component to our wellbeing.

So specifically, why be thankful when you don’t feel like it?

For your physical and mental health

There are many health benefits of gratitude: fewer trips to the doctor, improved sleep quality, improved mood, reduced anxiety, less fatigue, improved interpersonal relationships, strengthening of the immune system, and improved heart health to name a few.

Along with feeling better physically, grateful people are also happier.

For your spiritual health

Being thankful is more of a choice than a feeling. Over the years I have heard people say, “You don’t feel your way toward actions, but act your way toward feelings.” This is because feelings can be fickle and are influenced by too many factors such as hormone fluctuations or lack of sleep.

When we look at Philippians 4:6, it says not to be anxious, but pray and include thanksgiving. The following verse then tells us the result. It is Peace. Isn’t that what people want? Inner peace? The actions come first, followed by the benefits and subsequent feelings. When we follow God’s principles, our spiritual health improves.

How to Practice Gratitude

As mentioned above, writing letters of gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal are easy, as well as productive ways to practice being thankful. But there is more you can do.

We should focus regularly on the qualities that we appreciate in other people, but make sure it is something that they have control over. I once had a relative tell me that the reason they appreciated me was that I sang so beautifully. I had to wonder what would happen if I lost my voice permanently? Would I still be appreciated? What my relative could have said was that when I sang it was always in a spirit of humility, wanting to give honor and glory to God rather than to myself.

We should not compare ourselves to others, especially when it comes to material possessions or talents. What we see on social media is not how most people live every day. Also, we should not compare our problems to other people’s misfortunes.

We should practice saying “thank you” to others.

We need to be creative in how we view people who are an obvious “pain in the neck.” Seriously, we can learn from them. For instance, some people talk too much. From them, I have learned to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).

We should look for ways that God could turn our situation into good (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:38). If we come up with a blank, thank Him anyway. God is creative and all things are possible with Him (Matthew 19:26). Many times God will turn our troubles into a message of comfort and hope for others (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Why be thankful? (Conclusion)

Are materialism, envy, entitlement, or just lack of practice robbing you of the benefits of gratitude? Scripture tells us to be grateful for our good and God’s glory. Will you follow His instructions? It is one of the keys to finding hope, joy, and peace in life.

A gift of gratitude for you

So when you feel like asking, “Why be thankful when you don’t feel like it,” quote the scripture below.

photo of free scripture card that the reader can download, reminding them that they don't have to ask, "why be thankful when you don't feel like it?"

Please accept this Scripture card as a gift. Simply click on the image to download. No Email Required.

If you are wanting further scripture cards, please see the resource page.

References:

  • (1) https://thehealthsessions.com/practice-gratitude/
  • https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/how-to-be-thankful-when-you-don%E2%80%99t-feel-like-it-1342127.html
  • https://www.kerryhowells.com/what-happens-if-we-forget-gratitude/
  • https://blogs.psychcentral.com/cultivating-contentment/2013/11/what-to-do-if-you-dont-feel-grateful/
  • https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/how-be-grateful-even-when-you-don-t-feel-it-ncna823346

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