Thankfulness when You Don’t Feel Thankful
November is the time of year when we’re supposed to consider the many blessings of our lives and express thankfulness for them. Honestly, everyone’s thankful list can sometimes end up sounding very similar, not that it is bad at all. Especially in this country, many of us are so very blessed to have family, friends, homes, jobs, food, recreation, and so much to be thankful for. I’m sure this series has highlighted so many reasons to be thankful.
But what if you don’t feel thankful? What if you’re going through challenges in your life? You know all the reasons in your head for why you should be thankful, but feeling it is something entirely different. To clarify, this is not where I’m at currently in my life. Maybe that’s the reason I can look back and recognize the times when thankfulness wasn’t easy. And I know some of you are probably in that place right now where talk of thankfulness inspires guilt more than pleasure. You’re not where you want to be, and it’s so difficult to manufacture a sense of thankfulness for the desert you are currently wandering through.
As I reflected on this subject, I thought of two times in my life when I really didn’t feel thankful at Thanksgiving. About a dozen years, ago, my husband hurt his back and couldn’t work. He had to take disability from work, and we didn’t know what our future held. It was a horribly rough year all around. In November of that year, he had back surgery to repair a herniated disk. We hoped all would be better. But before he exited the hospital that day, the disk re-herniated. He still couldn’t work. A few weeks later, he ended up in a second surgery to attempt a repair. But this time, the surgeon said the damage was so significant, he couldn’t guarantee a prognosis.
It was during this time that I wrote my first book to be published. I felt the pressure of not knowing what would happen. From the time I started Baggage Claim to the time it was published in December was about six weeks. The story of how it came to be published is another tale. You can read part of it on my website. At the time, I sure didn’t feel thankful at Thanksgiving. It was a stressful time, and I had no idea what lay ahead for us.
Looking back now, I see God’s hand in every detail. I don’t know that I would have written that book if I hadn’t felt the pressure and uncertainty of my husband’s injury. If I did write a book at some later point, it certainly wouldn’t have been that specific book. I don’t think I would have felt the motivation to try something so wild as indie publishing.
My husband recovered and returned to work following his second surgery, but the experience was life-changing for him as well. He returned to work on a different path that has led to so many other blessings for our family. The publishing of Baggage Claim was a pivotal moment for me. It took off, achieving greater success than I thought possible, launching my career as a writer, and fulfilling a life-long dream that has allowed my writing to bless readers around the world.
Though I wasn’t thankful then, I am so very thankful now. I’m thankful for every little detail of that difficult time, every single tear. Because if one little nuance had been different, I wouldn’t have landed on this path. It was all God, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
I recall another time in my life when tears were much easier than thankfulness at Thanksgiving. I’d been in a car accident in September of that year. The guilt and uncertainty were suffocating and would continue for two years following. Even now, seven years later, I still feel the anxiety whenever I think of that time. The trauma still visits me when turning left at an intersection. If presented with the choice of a redo on that moment, I would honestly still take it. The trauma was so bad that I would change it all to make the memory go away. But if I changed it, I would have to change the book that followed—a book that has impacted the lives of people around the world.
I wrote A Cinderella Christmas as a fictionalized retelling of my own experience. The book would have never been written if I hadn’t gone through that accident. The idea hadn’t existed in my head beforehand, and I would have never been able to tell such a story without the personal depth and emotion of experiencing it myself. In turn, a quick perusal of the reviews on Amazon clearly reveals the impact of the story and message. I will never know all the good the telling of my own pain has resulted in. How many others have seen those on the sidelines of their own lives? How many have worn Cinderella shoes because of my book?
So, I am thankful. To be clear, I am not thankful that I went through that experience. Saying so would be a superficial lie that minimizes what happened. But I am thankful for a God who redeems. He took my pain and ugliness and turned it into something beautiful. I have overflowing thankfulness for the One who redeemed my brokenness and used it for the healing of others. He drew a phoenix out of my ashes, and gave it wings to fly around the world.
Are you familiar with the word Ebeneezer from the Bible? It means “stone of help” and is found in Samuel 7. After defeating the Philistines, Samuel raises his Ebeneezer, declaring that on this spot, God defeated the enemy. Notice that this Ebeneezer wasn’t raised during the battle. They were thankful following it. Samuel placed this stone as a marker to remind them that God’s faithful help won the battle for them. Though it can be difficult to be thankful when you’re in the midst of battle, it is beneficial to reflect and raise an Ebeneezer afterward, acknowledging that you have made it to this spot by God’s help.
There is a reason I chose this date for my thankfulness blog post. Today is my birthday. On this day, I’m raising an Ebeneezer, looking back at my life and recognizing that I’m at this November 22, 2023 by the hand of God. I’m so very thankful that God took a little girl with big glasses and chose her to redeem in every way. He saved me, brings good out of my circumstances, and redeems my failures for his glory. It’s beyond my comprehension to think of the ways He uses my life and writing for His work.
If you are in a place where you can’t manufacture thankfulness for your current situation, look back. Find an Ebeneezer. Be thankful that God saw you through the past deserts and battles, blessing you because of them. If you can’t be thankful for your circumstances today, be thankful for the God who fully intends to redeem those circumstances and use them to bless and heal. Know that God is the same today as He has been throughout your yesterdays.
Someday, you will be able to look back in the same way, recognizing the hand of God in your present circumstances. Then, you’ll be able to raise another Ebeneezer, experiencing the full breadth of thankfulness for a loving God who works all things together for good for the purposes He has for you. For those reasons, even in the midst of darkness, you can experience thankfulness today—thankfulness for all God has done. And all He will do.
May your November 22, 2023 be a thankful one.
Amanda Tru is a best-selling author of over thirty Christian fiction books. She writes page-turning fiction to inspire real-life stories. In her own real story, she sheds her super-hero writing cape to be mommy to four kids in a small Idaho town.
The following Amanda Tru books are published by Celebrate Lit Publishing: