Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Thankful Heart?

For those of you who don’t me, I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m a pessimist... a negative, cup-half-empty, untrusting, little Eeyore. For those of you who do know me, you know it’s actually no secret at all.

Because of this (among other things), at a Bible study two Mondays ago, my friends gave me a challenge – I was supposed to try to have a spirit of thankfulness for the rest of the week. I’ll be honest with you, I can’t quite remember how we went from discussing The Last Supper to that, but nevertheless, the challenge was issued, and I accepted. I was pretty psyched about it, too. I was due to report back the following Monday, and I just knew that I was going to come in with an amazing positive spirit, telling them all how my life had changed and I was a new person. (I like to have things planned out, and that does include spiritual awakenings.) I was pretty convinced that this thankful heart was going to be the turnaround I’d been seeking in my walk with God. I went to bed looking forward to it (how’s that for optimism?).

The next morning, I kinda forgot about it. Actually, I kind of forgot about it until that Thursday afternoon – I tripped a little while walking up the stairs but didn’t fall, for which I was grateful. As I breathed a sigh of relief to God, I remembered what I had forgotten. Figuring I could work on it retroactively, I began thinking of the things that had happened that week. Foremost in my mind was learning that a friend had been admitted into the hospital. I was not thankful. Surely that didn’t count, so I kept thinking. I had a good dinner with a friend; it involved cheesecake – thankful, of course. I couldn’t remember much more of my week, so I decided I’d just start the whole thankful-thing over again the following day. Over the next week, I didn’t remember constantly, but there were moments when it occurred to me to be thankful. Good evening with friends... check. Bought a “new” truck... check. Heard the water running from the air conditioner in time to turn it off before any damage occurred... check. Then I began thinking that only being grateful for the good stuff was easy, and therefore, probably wrong. To truly have a spirit of thankfulness, I needed to be thankful even in the bad stuff, right? Ok, so my friend was in the hospital, but she was doing better and it wasn’t as serious as it could be – silver lining to be thankful for! But, wait, isn’t that actually still a “good” thing? Am I cheating? My head began to hurt a little (not thankful).

Am I supposed to actually be thankful for a bad thing happening? I looked it up – I Thessalonians 5:18 says “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Well, dang.

I know good can come from bad, so I can understand being thankful for it in hindsight, but in the middle of misery, is thankfulness an emotion that I’m truly expected to be capable of?

I know when people read a blog on a Christian website, they’re expecting guidance, encouragement, answers... honestly, you’re not going to get much of that from me (see first sentence of this blog). But I do like discussion, debate, and learning, so let’s talk – what’s your take on having a spirit of thankfulness. Do you have it? Do you want it (easy answer!)? How do you think you get it? Are we as humans capable of it or is it just something we strive for until heaven? Is it a spirit, rather than an action? There may be no easy answers, but I’m very interested in hearing what y’all think.


  1. I'm thankful to have an honest friend like you who shares her feelings and then asks for others to share theirs. I'm with you, though, in finding it easier to be thankful for the good things and finding it harder to be cheerful about the bad. What I do know about myself, is once I start looking for "grateful" moments, I see them everywhere. Great post, Janda!!

  2. I'm trying to be more thankful on a daily basis and it sure is easy to be thankful for the 'good' things. I'm trying to find reasons to be thankful for all those other things, specifically getting laid off last September and STILL not finding employment. I've had to do some prayerful searching and decided it's ok to start with the small things and work my way up. So, I'm thankful that I get to sleep in a little more each morning; for getting to spend extra time with my children (who are old enough that they try to find ways NOT to spend time with me); for being able to spend time with my husband who has been deployed for two years, is home right now for an extended visit but will be going overseas again soon; for being able to hone my interview skills and try and figure out "what is it I really want to do?". One of the biggest things I am thankful for is that I don't feel like He has abandoned me in one of my most trying times, I feel like He has a better
    plan for me so I try to wake up with a smile every morning and trust in that plan. Most days I succeed, but I'm also thankful for the tears that fall because it drives me to more honest, open and deeper prayer with my Father.

    I'm thankful because he provides!

  3. First, I'm thankful for this blog; great idea.

    As for 1 Thes 5:18, I'm thankful that it says to give thanks "in" all things, not "for" all things. I'm certainly not thankful that my daughter died, but I am thankful that I know where she is, that many people heard the gospel at her funeral, and that my mom accepted Christ in large part b/c of the love of Christ she experienced through others during that painful time. I'm not thankful I had a mastectomy, but I am thankful that we caught it early, cerain Scriptures became more real and powerful and meaningful to me, and I was able to come to terms with trusting God with my family(yes,the moment I found the lump, I was convinced I would be dead in 6 months, but here I am, cancer free).

    So, am I thankful for the bad things? No, but I try to find things to be thankful for in the midst of the bad things. Thanks for the post!

  4. Susan, you are so transparent as you share the very tender emotions you've been through. You have had much to tear at your heart, but you continue to trust God and speak of the wonderful things He's done in your life and in the life of your mother.

    You've encouraged me with your story and I thank you for sharing it with us!

    I hate to ask this because it seems strange, but do you go to GLCC? I know quite a few Susans so I'm just trying to figure it out:)

  5. Paula and Suzi, thank you for your responses. You're encouraging me (and I hope others) to keep trying, to keep seeing how much we have to be thankful for.

    Susan, thank you for sharing. I love that the difference you pointed out is in 1 tiny little word, but it makes so much difference. As an English major and word-fan in general, that made my day. :-) And thank you for the example of how to have a thankful heart even in the worst of circumstances.

  6. Paula, yes, I attend GLCC. I don't think it's a strange question at all...the church is not exactly small. :o) We've been there almost 2 years, but I've been pretty much under the radar except for SR.

    Janda-Anne, I'm a word aficionado as well...aren't they just fun?

    Thanks to both of you for the kinds words.