Gratitude When It’s Hard to Give Thanks

Toward the end of college I met a blond-haired boy named Mark. One evening as he walked me home we paused for a moment under starry skies. I mentioned being cold and he opened his jacket to let me slip my arms around him. With my head against his chest, I felt safe and loved and known. I married him.

We set up our little household and I worked at DaySpring during the day, went to graduate school at night and frequently burned chicken somewhere in between. When we looked around our dinner table it seemed someone was missing.

We decided to start a family. We thought it would be easy. But days turned into months and then years. The chair stayed empty. I cried in the bathroom at holidays, including several Thanksgivings. I grew confused about how to say thanks in this season. I felt as split wide open by grief as the poor turkey on the table. When I tried to be grateful the feelings wouldn’t come. I was ashamed of this. Wouldn’t a good Christian be able to be grateful even now?

Gratitude is not always tidy. Sometimes it’s raw and messy. It takes guts and courage.

Then God, in all His gracious tenderness, began showing me that gratefulness is a decision and not an emotion. He understood that my heart and mind and body were in a hard fight. He didn’t demand that I dance across the battlefield as arrows whizzed by me. He knew the best I could do most days was stand my ground and that when I said, “Thank You, God, that You are still good” through gritted teeth with tears streaming down my face and dirt on my knees, it was an act of worship.

Gratitude is not always tidy. Sometimes it’s raw and messy. It takes guts and courage. Sometimes it means sitting down to a meal with those we love, holding a knife and spreading butter across a hot roll. But sometimes it’s holding a sword of truth and being at war; it’s fighting the darkness with every bit of our hearts and souls. Both the feast and the fight are holy.



More for You

What Your Soul Needs for Stressful TimesToday on More than Small Talk, Counselor Keri Corn joins us for a conversation about what it means to be emotionally safe, how to tell when we’re not, and what we can do to guard our hearts. Listen in!

If it’s hard to feel grateful right now, I understand. If you need a little extra encouragement as you courageously choose gratitude, my books What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days and What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times were written with you in mind.


About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


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