Do you find it difficult to remain grateful on some days? Does it ever annoy you to see people who seem to be grateful all the time?
Join the club! The writer of Proverbs can relate:
“A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morningProverbs 27:14 NLT
will be taken as a curse!”
Researchers have discovered that some of us are indeed hard-wired to be more grateful. Whether our genes, our brains, or even our personalities, there are many factors working for or against our grateful disposition.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t become more grateful. Gratefulness is fundamentally a choice and the emotions will eventually follow.
We’ve documented extensively through this Gratitude Challenge the many benefits and challenges to gratitude. In this episode, I’d like to discuss a couple of biblical reminders that can help us on those days we don’t “feel” like being thankful.
Overcome the difficult times with praise
“Come into his presence with thanksgiving.” –Psalm 95:2 NLT
Praising God requires us to take our eyes off ourselves, our circumstances, and our limited view of life. Sometimes we need more extended periods of preparation to avoid going through the motions.
Has this ever happened to you? You show up to church and you’re feeling grumpy. You don’t want to sing, praise, or give thanks. In fact, the worship leaders seem too chipper and out of touch! But you go through the motions of singing, knowing that God is more real than how you feel. After the second or third song your heart starts to lift as you reflect upon the truths being sung. By the time the sermon ends you feel encouraged, your perspective has shifted.
That’s the work of the Holy Spirit working on your heart.
What makes it so difficult?
EXERCISE: I don’t recommend doing this often, but consider making a list of reasons why you don’t feel thankful. Maybe they’re arguments you’ve privately been having with God. Write them down and talk it out with God. Ask him to show you where you’re not seeing things from his perspective.
But don’t leave it there. Ask yourself how you might give thanks even in those circumstances.
I asked my team recently to start a meeting off by telling us something they were thankful for. One of them didn’t have anything so I gave her time to think about it and then asked her to come up with even one small glimmer of light. She eventually found one.
Sometimes that’s all we can do is grab one straw of gratitude. It may feel difficult, but the next straw will be easier to collect. Eventually we’ll have a whole bale.
Start with the Gospel
When you’re not feeling particularly grateful, find a scripture you can meditate upon to remind yourself of something that is true. I find that rehearsing the story of redemption can be a good place to begin. Perhaps it’s remembering your own day of salvation or one of the larger stories in scripture.
I recently reread the story of Saul’s conversion before he was renamed Paul. Do you realize that Paul is directly responsible for the Gospel reaching Western Europe? What if Saul had never converted? How about if Ananias resisted God’s command to go heal Paul of his blindness? What if Paul disobeyed the Spirit’s leading to take the Gospel to people who had not yet heard?
I’m thankful that Paul felt called as he described it:
“My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.”Romans 15:20 NLT
Focus on today
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”Psalm 118:24
Sometimes we try to make our prayers too grandiose. We become out of touch when we stop noticing what’s around us. The easiest place to start is in the here and now.
While this could become obsessive, on days when you’re not feeling grateful, take a few minutes to start thanking God. For example:
- Look at your calendar and give thanks for the people you’ve met and you’re going to meet.
- Look around your house and give thanks for the people who gave you gifts or the stories behind a book.
- Gaze out the window and find a few things that remind you of life. There is life even on the grayest of days. Did you know that even in Death Valley flowers come to life when rare rains come through? The image in today’s verse image comes from a rare Super Bloom at Death Valley.
Do something generous for someone difficult to love
This may perhaps be the biggest challenge and may take the most intentionality on your part. But Paul says in 2 Cor. 9:11 that we have been “enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.”
If that’s true, then we can certainly find ways to be generous toward even our enemies, who Jesus told us to love.
Think of someone who drives you nuts. Or someone who could never repay you. How might you show kindness toward that person today?
Today’s challenges have been spread through the article. What’s something you’ll try? I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
Father, I thank you for being faithful, loving, giving, and kind. I praise you for my salvation and that thousands are coming to faith every week around the globe. I pray many more will discover the liberating truth of the Gospel. Teach me to be grateful even when I don’t feel very thankful. Train my mind to think thankfully each and every day. You’ve given me so much. Forgive me for taking it for granted and being difficult. I love you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.