How to Make It Through the Holidays When You Don’t Feel Very Grateful

It’s that time of year again. Pumpkins are put away, Christmas décor in beginning to fill the stores, and there’s one more big Holiday to celebrate before the Christmas jingles hit the airwaves – Thanksgiving.

As Christians we know we are supposed to “give thanks is all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and “give thanks to God for everything” (Ephesians 5:20) but I have a sneaky suspicion that many of us are not celebrating the holiday season like we want to be.

Just this week I learned from a friend who has been struggling with infertility for years. Another friend just let me know of her pending divorce. The news headlines continue about another mass shooting, this time to another grieving church.

Life is hard, draining at times, and pain does not take a break when the Holidays get here. Sometimes pain is more exposed around the Holidays. Sometimes the holidays can expose our longings and laments and it makes it difficult to know how to celebrate with a troubled heart.

How can we “give thanks” when we don’t feel very thankful?

  1. Remember what God has done

As I studied laments throughout scripture, I saw a God who invites us to remember. We are to remember the things God has done for us in the past. We hold on to these in the present and into our future, especially when our circumstances make it difficult to remember the goodness of God. God knows the highs and lows that hit our life, and so He invites us to remember His faithfulness throughout the ages.

Remembering the goodness of God in the past, will help us in seasons where it’s harder to see Him. “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11).

  1. Remind God of His promises

This one can feel a little odd, after all, God is all-knowing and doesn’t need us to remind Him of things, yet God invites us to remind Him. In the same way a child might say to a parent, “remember you said you’d take me to ice cream if we won the game?” God invites us into a reminding-prayer relationship with Him. This type of reminding is not for God’s sake, but usually for ours. It is good for us to remember God’s promises. It is good for us to stay in communication with God when life has not gone the way we expected it to.

The Hebrew words for “remember” – zakar – and “not forget – lo shakach – are both in active tense. They are “doing” verbs. Just as we take action by praying, we also take action by calling God’s truths into the present.

This practice of remembering and reminding God are found in both the old in New Testaments. Jesus even asks us to remember Him as we take communion (1 Corinthians 11:24). The church I have been attending practices communion every week and this has been so good for me! I am being reminded of God no matter what has gone on during my week, and I am being reminded to take my prayers and pain to God.

The practice of remembrance can often leads our hearts to thanksgiving for our past and hope for our future. While God will never forget or abandon us, at times we will feel forgotten. It’s not that God is distant; it’s just that sometimes He feels distant. It’s not that God is preoccupied; it’s just that our struggles make us feel like we’re facing the world alone.

Sometimes we need a little extra reminder around the holidays.

In my book No More Faking Fine, I share about Nehemiah and other “How Long” laments found in scripture. Nehemiah is a servant in scripture who practiced this type of remembrance prayer.

Nehemiah remembered God, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (Nehemiah 4:14) and Nehemiah reminded God “Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people” (Nehemiah 5:19).

Remembering and reminding are tools of our faith that we can apply to each and every season.

Know that when life is painful, it will not always stay that way. Let’s remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past, and have hope that we will again see it in the future.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes Your help feels so far-off. Please give me strength to cling to You. Give me a shield of faith (Ephesians 6). Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy (Psalm 130). Hear my cry for help (Psalm 5:2) and be merciful to me, for I am faint (Psalm 6:2). 

Original article for Devotionals Daily by Esther Fleece, author of No More Faking Fine.

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Your Turn

Feeling thankful yet? Some of us are in seasons that are so easy to be thankful for — abundance, joy, new birth, newlywed joy, financial cushion. Celebrate that today! Write it down and thank God! Some of us are in seasons of trial or grief — loss, tragedy, fear, struggle, loneliness. This season, friends, it will not last forever. Remember what God has done for you. And, remind Him of His promises. You are not alone. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you!

Esther Fleece

Esther Fleece is an international speaker and writer on Millennials and faith, leadership, and family, recognized among Christianity Today’s “Top 50 Women Shaping the Church and Culture” and CNN’s “Five Women in Religion to Watch.” As founder and CEO of L&L Consulting, she works to connect influential individuals and organizations to their mutual benefit. You can follow Esther’s global adventures on Twitter @EstherFleece and at www.estherfleece.com.

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