Groaning, Cheerless, Thankful

If you’re finding it hard to feel thankful this Thanksgiving, you’re not alone. Thanksgiving will dawn with thousands of our colleagues and other healthcare staff working in stressed and possibly over-full facilities, or in long-term care settings with active COVID infections and so-lonely residents. 

My husband and I will spend the holiday alone, as our state’s latest guidelines restrict gathering with people who aren’t part of one’s household. Our family members live in other cities, so they’re all off limits this holiday.

So, where’s the thankfulness? If we let our situations and exhausted bodies and strained emotions steer our response, gratitude will be out of reach. But God throws out life rings when we’re plodding in the dark, encircled with sadness or disappointment or sorrow. 

  • If we know Jesus as Lord and Savior, we can be deeply thankful for his sacrificial love that guarantees us eternal life. Disease or loss can’t take anything away from this inheritance we are certain to receive.
  • Memories prompt thankfulness. Who spoke Jesus to you the first time, or explained mercy and grace and forgiveness so you could trust in Christ? Thank God for him or her. What about others who’ve blessed us, created for us a legacy, or just sweetened our path? A teacher or coach, a generous neighbor, a relative, a child. Start remembering and let thankfulness flow.
  • The Psalms--poetry and song that express every sort of emotion--steer us toward thanking God. Read them and be mentored in your prayer and gratitude giving.

           “Give ear to my words, Lord; consider my groaning,” begins Psalm 5. By the psalm’s end, the writer is able to sing; expressing unhappy emotions has brought about gratitude!

           "You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head" (Psalm 3:3, NRSV). Do these images evoke a sense of appreciation?

  • When gratitude seems absurd, whisper Psalm 37:24: “The Lord is the One who holds my hand.” Can you thank God for being close at this moment?

This holiday seems bleak and cheerless if I think about counting my lack of blessings…. and then more holidays follow. Sigh. In her column in the upcoming January/March issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing, Marsha Fowler describes a Jewish tradition of 100 blessings—looking for and appreciating what’s around us, how God is sustaining us, someone who’s spoken goodness or truth to us. So instead of giving in to the bleak, cheerlessness I see and sometimes feel, I’m looking for blessings today and tomorrow that give me reasons to say thank you. Try it with me!

Karen Schmidt, BA, RN, is a contributing editor with the Journal of Christian Nursing. She’s hugely appreciative for the people whose thankful lifestyles have mentored her.

InterVarsity Press publishes a wealth of books and Bible studies for spiritual growth. For example, Spirituality of Gratitude by Joshua Choonmin Chang and Radical Gratitude by Peter Maiden. 

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