November is here and with that comes Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Partly because of the food! 😉 But also because at least for that day, that week, I am confronted to remember all that I am thankful for.

Unfortunately though, a lot of the time, I find that I am not naturally grateful. For the first 27-28 years of my life, I might have told you that I was! Optimistic, hopeful, the one that was the cheerleader for others, always having a positive attitude on the sports team and on the job. But then I hit some bumps in the road. I was confronted by the pain in my life and the brokenness I’d experienced in relationships. I went to counseling and discovered that most of my optimism, and basically fake thankfulness, was my rock-solid defense mechanism to avoid looking at and feeling the pain. It was just easier to pretend it wasn’t there.

During that time, some gals from my church went through the book Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It was hard for me to read that book! I knew there were lots of things to be thankful for in my life. And I also knew there was a lot of hurt, pain, and disappointment I was dealing with. I was stuck in the messy middle. Several times in Scripture we are instructed to be thankful. Yet I wasn’t.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~ give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Psalm 50:14 ~ Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving…
Psalm 105:1 ~ Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
Psalm 107:8 ~ Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

In many ways, I still struggle with this. I know I don’t want to go back to my old sense of optimism that leads me to say, “Oh I’m so thankful! Even though I’m going through _____, it could be so much worse!” That’s avoiding.
And I don’t want to swing the other direction and wallow in my circumstances either.

One line that stuck out to me from Choosing Gratitude is this: “Cultivating a thankful heart is a safeguard against becoming bitter, prickly, and sour. A grateful child of God can’t help but be a joyful, peaceful, radiant person.”

It’s all too easy to become bitter and sour, even if it doesn’t show to the outside world. Gratitude brings back the joy, peace, and radiance that we all want. And as we give thanks to God and try to have His perspective on things, He builds our resilience for the daily struggle of life.

When I think about all that God has done for me – rescuing me from the pit of darkness and securing an eternal home for me! – you’d think there would be no effort needed to constantly thank Him for that most important gift. Yet life, little frustrations, moments of impatience, and really hard trials are right beside each us. So, if you’re like me and feel stuck in the messy middle during this season of thanks-giving, let’s press on to know God a little more. Do what you can, even if that’s the bare minimum, to give thanks. Maybe just reflect on the Scriptures above if your current circumstances don’t feel like much to give thanks for. God is with you. He is for you and loves you. As I said, this is still a hard practice for me to live out. Yet now, on the other side of a lot of that hardship, I see God was and is at work. I re-read through my journals and see how He answered prayer, protected me, taught me, and grew me! And when I remember that I have such a limited perspective compared to God’s, I am at ease to see the good in life, in others and in myself.

~ Jillian Combs

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