The Practice of Being Grateful For in a Difficult Season in 2023

The fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. And that’s today! As good-for-the-soul as food, family, friends – and perhaps football – is, Thanksgiving is about something deeper and more meaningful. Each year I challenge myself to think of new things to be grateful for.

This year my heart is heavy over so much pain in our world. In my work I’m honored to walk with individuals through some very dark aspects of life. The war in Israel has captured the world’s attention with untold destruction and suffering for many weeks. It seems our country (the US) is more divided than ever over politics, racism, economic challenges, and more. Can we really be grateful in such a time?

But I’ve come to know that it’s right in the middle of trouble that giving thanks becomes more important than ever. It was to a country torn apart by the Civil War that President Lincoln, on October 3, 1863, proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving Day.

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

I pray your Thanksgiving Day is wonderful. Expressing gratitude doesn’t deny the reality of problems, but it provides perspective and internal fuel to continue in spite of them.

So here are three things at the top of my gratitude list for 2023.

YOU!

I am so profoundly grateful for you!

When I get an email from you about how a podcast episode or an article has spoken to you in a special way, I’m grateful.

When I see a comment from you on our YouTube channel or on a blog article, I smile and thank God for you.

When you let me know that you’ve shared one of our resources with someone else who needs it, I’m so grateful for the privilege of doing what I get to do because of you.

When I get a message from someone who is asking for help in facing big challenges, I thank God for you because your prayers support me and those assisting me in offering insight and resources to those who need Jesus to step into their messy circumstances.

And without the gifts from those of you who can financially support us we would not be able to share these materials with hurting people. Thank You is hardly enough.

If you could see and hear me right now, you would hear me saying Thank You!

Who in your life are you grateful for this season?

Rhythms

Mountaintops are awesome!

When a new opportunity comes, when the numbers are “up and to the right,” when something I do gets a great response from people, I love it. The validation feels good. I’ve learned how to truly enjoy every forward step and not to compare myself to anyone else.

And mountaintops wouldn’t exist without the times in the valley. It’s the contrast that makes mountaintops what they are.

Jesus welcomed the crowds and ministered generously to them. And He also regularly withdrew to spend time alone – with a few of His closest friends, and in true solitude with His Father.

The times of ministering to others fuel my soul.

But times alone fuel it in some ways even more. An early Saturday morning on my back porch with coffee and a fire in my chimenea, a walk outside listening to the birds, leaning back in my chair with closed eyes and some instrumental worship music experiencing Jesus’ presence – how precious.

I’m deeply grateful for these kinds of rhythms. That looks different during different life seasons, but it’s available to us all.

How might you want to be more intentional about important rhythms in your own life?

The End of the Story

If this is as good as it gets, do we really want it?

Jesus asked the disciples if they too would leave, and Peter responded “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life” (see John 6:68). Indeed, where else could we go? Nothing else ends up satisfying. Money, fame, success, even family, is all limited. Yes, those things may be important (some more important than others), but they never last.

Keeping eternity in mind helps to right-size our problems here and now. As Paul said, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Really, Paul? Light? Momentary? I don’t know about you, but often the bad stuff seems anything but light and momentary.

Yet in light of eternity, it is.

Jesus cares about your sickness, your finances, your troubled marriage or unhappy singleness, your disappointment or trauma or anxiety. He experienced the same kind of struggles when He was here on earth. He sees you. He gets you.

And He also knows this is temporary. So yes, seek all God has for you here and now. I’m not sure any of us truly experience every good thing available to us in this life. And at the same time, don’t expect this life to ever be enough. Keep eternity in mind.

We know the end of the story. Spoiler alert; Jesus wins!

Is there anything that should make us more grateful than that?

Your Gratitude

What are you grateful for this year?

Take the time to look more deeply and in places you might not have considered looking for things to be thankful for. Nurture the attitude of gratitude when it springs up in your soul.

Where can you be grateful – even when life is difficult?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your Turn: I’d love to hear from you about what you’re grateful for this year. Leave a comment below.

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  • Expressing gratitude even when life is difficult nourishes your soul, improves your mental health, and helps right-size your problems. Here are three things I’m grateful for this year.   Tweet that.

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