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Posted by Hannah Hansen on November 21, 2018 at 10:39 AM

Around Thanksgiving, without fail, there are always about a MILLION (that’s a rough estimate) blog posts about giving thanks.

How to say a prayer of thanksgiving. . . . Thanksgiving crafts for your kids. . . . Top 3 ways to show thanks to your pastor.

But you know what? Some years, you just don’t feel thankful.

This is the point where people interject and say “Find the silver lining. There’s always something to be thankful for. God is good no matter what!” And you know what? I am all about that attitude because all those things are true.

But I think it’s equally important to acknowledge that some years are tougher than others. And yeah, you can obviously think of a few things you’re grateful for, but somehow being thankful for cheesy potatoes doesn’t quite cancel out the fact that your house was foreclosed on, your parents got a divorce, your friend committed suicide, or your health declined.

Then you read the news—the shootings, the fires, the new forms of cancer, the lack of clean water, the threats of war. . . and despair sets in. How can I feel thankful when there’s so much bad stuff happening in the world and in my own life?

In the midst of all these hardships, God is good. I know that. You know that. His grace is still sufficient for us.

Yet, we are commanded to be thankful people. In Colossians, Paul urges Christians to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (3:15). Jesus gives thanks to God (Matthew 15:36, Mark 14:23), and He extols the thankfulness of the Samaritan with leprosy: “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18)

So how do we reconcile the tension here? How do we give thanks while still recognizing that we don’t have to gloss over life’s dark parts?

We can give thanks for the things God has given us—family, shelter, food, relationships, work—without turning a blind eye to sin in the world or struggles in our own lives. Instead, we can rejoice in what we do have and ask God to give us a spirit of thankfulness.

Forcing yourself to be thankful might seem fake or insincere, but this practice can lead to genuine thanks! When you’re giving thanks, you’re not negating the fact that you have hardships or difficulties, but you are recognizing God’s good gifts in the midst of that—like insurance or your church family.

If you’re feeling torn up by the hardships in the world that others are experiencing, think about ways you can help. You can donate to charities, volunteer your time, or organize events to raise funds or collect items.

So, this Thanksgiving, don’t feel like you have to put on a happy face and pretend that your life is great. Acknowledge your hardships, but still proclaim God’s goodness throughout.

Hannah Hansen

Written by Hannah Hansen

Hannah is a freelance writer and brand designer. She currently lives in Oceanside, California, where her husband serves as a pastor. When she’s not running along the coast, you’ll likely find her cooking new vegan recipes or browsing her local thrift store.