When you don’t feel thankful

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Last year on Thanksgiving we used coffee beans, this year Shreddies, five by each plate and a small bowl in the table’s center to collect our tokens as we took turns offering thanks for God’s goodness. Five Shreddies, five times around the table, five opportunities to express gratefulness.

This year the thanks came slowly. Too slowly. So we took the Shreddies out of the bowl and started again. And again. And gradually our hearts caught up with our hands and our words. “I’m thankful for friends that keep loving in the mess.” “Me too!” “This gift needs two Shreddies!”

Am I alone in this, or do you, too, ever wonder why, when we’re surrounded by blessings, it is so often hard to give thanks?

Sometimes it’s that I don’t see. My eyes are on struggle rather than beauty and I jump in and out of the hot running water, eat the whole plateful of delicious food, and walk by the window’s beautiful view without feeling or tasting or really looking at any of it. Here, giving thanks (whether with Shreddies or a notebook and pen) helps, training me to look and listen, to notice the blessings.

Often, though, when I’m not feeling thankful, it’s not counting gifts I first need, but lament. Trying to push past pain into thankfulness without space for honest tears shapes only empty words, not a heart full of gratitude. A cry for help, anger at injustice, a tearful “where are you God?!” – many of the psalms begin here. Grace teaches lament, receiving it as holy prayer rather than condemning us for not seeing the always present blessings. And Grace makes lament a pathway to praise. As the poet pours out pain and finds himself welcomed, he discovers honest reason to be thankful. (Isn’t this the best reason to be thankful – that we can come as we are and find ourselves welcomed?!)

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving Day!

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What helps you most when you’re not feeling thankful? What are you most thankful for today?

3 thoughts on “When you don’t feel thankful

  1. Yes, Carolyn, thank you for this! Lots of times we’re not thankful because we’ve gotten out of focus, but thanks for reminding us that there are times to honestly lament and press through the lament into praise.

  2. Klara van der Molen says:

    Thank you Carolyn for this timely piece. I often feel worry keeps me from being truly thankful— I wait and wait for this or for that without answer– then suddenly God does answer– He has a better plan all along– and it is only after the fact that I seem to understand that He was at work all this time— just not my time but His. His grace is so sufficient for us, but many times we do not understand it is okay to lament and beg for His answer, somehow we feel He has forgotten our needs and or we are afraid to ask thinking it would be wrong to do so?
    Thank you for the bean/ shreddies idea— a wonderful way to really get to the bottom of it all.I will try it next year. When my kids were small it was part of our daily ritual to say at least one thing we were thankful for, before we had our supper, what happened since then??
    This Sunday’s sermon was a lesson in understanding thankfulness once again. You are a true sister in Christ as you help us see the truth through your own tears. Bless you and— yes a happy and thankful Thanksgiving as you give to us from your heart to ours!
    Love you

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