“Just be thankful”. I know we’ve all heard it, and often, it’s said to us when we’re knee deep in suffering. Why is that? I think that most of the time, people are just trying to help us put things in perspective. Sure, sometimes that’s helpful, but sometimes it’s dismissive and hurtful. We know that we need to continually give thanks for all of our blessings, but does that mean that we’re never allowed to feel hurt, upset, or mad? And how do we continue to be thankful through the mess that we find ourselves in?
Helping someone to get perspective is a great idea in theory. They’ve lost their grip on reality, according to you, and you can help them by reminding them that someone else has it worse. “At least your issue isn’t as bad as theirs.” The problem with this is that someone else has always got it worse. If you’re in bed with the flu, be thankful because someone else has cancer. If you’re frustrated with your kids, be thankful because someone else can’t get pregnant. If you’re having a bad week at work, be thankful because there are so many jobless and homeless people out there.
And while this is an understandable issue, it’s not as cut and dried as we like to think. God didn’t create us with all of these feelings so we would never feel them. We are allowed to be thankful, but still be upset with our boss. We are allowed to be thankful, but still be frustrated with our kids. We are allowed to be thankful, yet still feel sick or fight to be healthy. We’re allowed to cry. We’re allowed to feel depressed. We’re allowed to grieve. We’re allowed to fight.
It doesn’t say anywhere that we should only be feeling positive emotions, because negative ones only make us thankless. That’s not true. Our negative emotions help us to process what’s happening to us, so that we can eventually move on from it. If we don’t confront the issue and keep pushing it off because “we should just be thankful that it’s not worse“, then where will that leave us? What does being thankful through the mess look like, as opposed to carrying thankfulness around like a shield and using it to push away any other emotions.
Being thankful through the mess is about knowing that things may not be looking good now, but they won’t be like that forever. It’s about acknowledging that maybe things are rough at your job right now, but you have your loving family to look forward to seeing when you get home. It’s about seeing things that are falling apart in front of you, and still having friends to lean on through it all.
We don’t have to stop feeling in order to give thanks. We can be thankful through bitter tears, broken hearts, and injured bodies. And if someone seems to be taking something harder than you think they should, take a minute to see that there may be more to the story than you know. It would be wonderful to support each other in however we’re feeling, regardless of whether or not we agree with it. We’re entitled to our feelings, and sometimes we just need a friend to listen.
How do you stay thankful, even when you’re going through a storm in your life?