Stop Trying to be Thankful

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving; enter His courts with praise.”
Psalm 100:4

I have a mantra about this holiday. Thanksgiving: all food, no pressure. It’s the best holiday of the year, the one where everything stops, and the feast begins. The one where everyone goes around the table and says what they’re thankful for. And don’t we have so much to be thankful for?

But it’s also at this time of year that I start to feel guilty and ashamed of how much I complain. If only I was more grateful, then I could be content.  Maybe today I should write out a list of 100 things I’m grateful for to really force myself to be a better person. No, 1,000 things!  Maybe tomorrow I’ll post that list on my bathroom mirror, so I just don’t forget. No complaining this week! It’s Thanksgiving!  Get it together, Claire. 

But I’m starting to realize something. The more I try to be thankful, the harder it becomes. 

Each of us was born with an unbridled ability to rejoice. Have you ever seen a video of a baby laughing hysterically at something adults would consider completely normal? Have you ever seen fully grown adults cheering wildly for their team who just scored? We were created as vessels of overflowing joy. Great Thanksgiving takes no effort: it comes naturally.

So why now does thanksgiving feel so foreign? Why does so much seem to get in my way of a grateful attitude? Yesterday, Midtown’s pastor Randy Draughn explained something that I just have to share because it touched me so profoundly.

When we try to be thankful… our list starts to look like this: “I’m so thankful for my job, my health, my family, my friends, my house, my food…” But the problem with staking all of our Thanks upon those things is that those things change. My job might be great one day, but what happens when I get laid off? My health might be okay today, but what happens when all the sudden it’s not? My family is good right now, but what about tomorrow, when they get on my nerves again?

These lists are temporary, circumstantial, relative, and malleable. So when they change, so does my attitude. No wonder my Thanksgiving only lasts one day a year. I need to stop trying to make myself more thankful for the circumstances of my life. It’s like trying to force myself to grow a little taller.

But there is a place where the well of gratitude is full and overflowing (and never-ending). When we step nearer to Jesus, thanksgiving is unstoppable. When I see my Creator, my gratitude is natural, easy, and true. It’s like he turns on the fire hose of thanksgiving within us, and steps back to watch it spray out everywhere, all over the place.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m not making a list. I’m not going to try harder. I’m just going to try and step closer to my Jesus, and watch what he does to my heart.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30