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Giving Thanks: When We Don’t Feel Thankful

Written by Chris Skinner on


Thanksgiving truly is a great time of year. We are privileged in the U.S. to have a holiday that puts giving thanks at the forefront of our national consciousness. Cultivating a thankful heart can actually help you be healthier and happier1. Giving thanks is also commanded in Scripture2, so we know God desires it from us.

Furthermore, we know that those who belong to Christ have much we should be thankful for. Everything we have, we don’t deserve3. In fact, we understand that because of our sin we actually deserve death. But through Christ, we are given life eternal, a new family, and a new hope. The truth of the gospel is good news that we could never get on our own. Thankfulness should be something that springs from our hearts!

But what if we dont feel thankful? Sometimes, even though we know we should be, we’re not. It could be that we’re living in a tough season of life. Maybe we’ve been waiting for something and it still hasn’t come. Maybe there is someone we wish was with us that isn’t. Maybe we’ve come to face-to-face with the sin and brokenness of others and it hurts and it’s hard to focus on anything else. Maybe the sin and brokenness are our own. Maybe the current state of world affairs leaves us scared. Maybe this was the year we were sure things were going to be different in a relationship, at school, at work, at home, but nothing has really changed. How do we cultivate a heart of gratitude when gratitude seems hard to conjure up?

Below are a few things that you can do today to allow God to grow thanksgiving in the soil of your heart. Admittedly, these may not always be easy to do. But if to be thankful is to be obedient, then they are worth the effort.

Ask God

This one seems obvious, but it’s powerful. There’s no better place to look for reasons to be thankful than to God himself. Ask Him to show you how blessed you are. There is plenty for Him to point out. As God shows things to you, write them down. Add to the list throughout the week and revisit it often to constantly remind you of God’s goodness to you.

Acknowledge pain

Don’t ignore or downplay the things in your life that are blocking you from gratitude. Acknowledge them before God and others. You don’t have to fake it so others aren’t uncomfortable. When someone asks about your holidays, you can say,“It’s not the same this year without…” or, “Well, we were hoping for things to be different, but…” and fill in the rest with what you can be thankful for. God knows what hurts, and He is the healer. And others can love you better when they see your transparency.

Applaud others

Thanking others for what they do or how they’ve impacted your life is a great way to get the ball of gratitude rolling in your heart. Think of one or two people who have been a blessing, and write them a note of thanks. Be specific about the ways in which you’re grateful for them. Who knows, maybe they could use the encouragement? As you think of what makes you thankful, you will take your focus off of what is keeping you from cultivating a heart of thanksgiving.

Need more ideas? Here are some links to other places that can help you as you continue to think about restoring a heart of thankfulness. I hope that they help you get to a place of Thanksgiving this season.


2 Psalm 95:2
3 2 Cor. 5:21

Chris Skinner

Chris serves on the College Park Church Worship Arts Team as the Production Director. He is passionate about encouraging the church to gather and worship Christ. Chris enjoys spending time with his wife, kids, and Small Group.

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