Giving Thanks When You Don't Feel Thankful


By: Justin Anderson

I am not a thankful person, and I know exactly why.

First, I am an extremely future oriented person. 

I am constantly thinking about and planning the next thing and dreaming of the future. As a leader, this is often a real strength. I am able to foresee problems and opportunities before they pass me by, and I keep my church and my company moving forward all the time. Sure, it can wear people out, but nine times out of ten, it’s a strength.

But as a Christian, my future orientation often works against me. Thankfulness requires me to stop moving forward for a moment, to be present just long enough to celebrate the past. And this is tough. Looking backwards can feel like a waste of time and an unnecessary use of energy. 

Second, when I do stop to think about the past, I normally see everything that went wrong. 

I like to say that I’m a maximizer but the truth is that I just tend to dwell on the negative. Mistakes bother me and unrealized opportunities feel like something I can never get back.

Again, this can be a strength as a leader, but it is also a weakness. My inability to celebrate the good that God and my team have done is bad leadership and it cultivates an unhealthy discontentment in my heart and in those I lead.

Lastly, I don’t notice the things for which I should be thankful. 

I expect things to be good, to be successful, so when they are, it doesn’t feel like something to celebrate or be particularly thankful for, it just feels like my expectations were met. This is just plain arrogance.

So what is the remedy? Giving thanks. 

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time we should be giving thanks and honoring God for what he has done. Every morning when I do my devotions, I force myself to think about things to thank God for. I use the ACTS acronym to shape my morning prayers. The four movements of this prayer -- Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication -- force me to worship God, confess my sin, thank God for his work in my life, and humbly ask him to do what I cannot do. 

Even when I don’t feel thankful, I give thanks, and you know what? It makes me thankful. Just seeing the things I’ve written down that God has done for me, reminds me that I actually have a lot to be thankful for, and that causes my heart to respond with genuine gratitude. 

So this week, even when (and perhaps especially when) you don’t feel thankful, give thanks anyway, and see if God doesn’t use that as an occasion to make your heart genuinely thankful, too.