Yesterday I sat down to write down a few thoughts on thankfulness. 

Halfway through my perfectly packaged blog on being grateful, I got an email I’d been waiting for—with the opposite news I’d hoped for. 

The news didn’t just disappointment; it hurt. I didn’t know where to set my thoughts. And I certainly didn’t feel like being grateful. 

I hit “delete” on the “being grateful” blog and stared instead at the disappointment on the screen. 

What do you do when what you want to happen doesn’t, or when what you don’t want to happen does?

How are you supposed to be grateful when you feel so disappointed, so let down? 

But how do you do that?

Scripture says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

But how do you do that?

Part of the “how” comes from KNOWING WHAT GRATITUDE IS AND ISN’T. Being thankful doesn’t mean you have to like something. Gratitude doesn’t mean you have to feel happy inside.

Instead being thankful is a choice to trust God when you can’t make sense of what’s going on. Gratitude is confidence that God is sovereign even when it seems like something or someone else is in control. Eugene Peterson’s translation of Proverbs 3:5 says it well: Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice. (Proverbs 3:5).

The other part is KEEPING YOURSELF FROM SIMMERING IN DISAPPOINTMENT too long, then TAKING ACTIVE STEPS TOWARD THANKFULNESS–even if you don’t feel like it. Disappointment is like a stubborn coffee stain. The longer you let it sit, the easier it can turn into bitterness, self-pity or even depression, something that’s hard to get out.

“Why are you downcast?” the psalmist says (Psalm 42:5). “Put your hope in God.” And that’s exactly what God’s looking for—hope in him. Not in a dream. Not in a specific result. Not in a person. None of those things are bad of course. But they all have the potential to let you down. Ultimately hope is in the character of God—that he is who he says he is.

A little shove of thankfulness

When my son was learning to ride a two-wheeler, he couldn’t start on his own. He needed me to give him an extra shove to move him along. Once those pedals started to spin, he was fine.

Sometimes we need a little push out of disappointment and into thankfulness. Crazy as it might sound, music is one of the best ways to get that shove.

“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord” (Ezra 3:11).
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).
“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song (Psalm 95:2).

When God thinks of being thankful, he obviously thinks of singing too. Singing praise to God has a way of turning us away from ourselves and “the problem” outward and upward.

Disappointment turns us inward and downward. Thankfulness turns us outward and upward.

Of course singing was NOT on my mind when I got my disappointing email. But eventually, after praying and sighing and muttering, I started listening to music, then humming and finally singing softly.

When you sing, sadness gradually seems a little less sad and gladness seems a little brighter. Singing does that to you. Thankfulness does that to you. Being thankful isn’t only something that God loves; it’s good for you too.

What suggestions do you have for being thankful when someone’s feeling disappointed? What do you do to get your eyes back on God when you feel let down?

© Carol Garborg, 2020

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