How to be Thankful During Hard Times

Learning how to be grateful to God during hard times might be the last thing you want to do, but it’s always worth it.

Interrupted sleep, being suddenly gripped by fear that would grab my heart, and jolt me awake in the middle of the night. These were all, unfortunately, common occurrences in my life during the hardest season of my life at the time. 

Rest was a distant memory. I wasn’t getting any sleep. I wasn’t getting any naps during the day. Fear and worry would keep me up all night long. Unable to find peace, I sometimes would grab my bible and start to read. I was searching for anything in my Bible. I was desperate for a word of encouragement or hope. 

In those quiet moments in the middle of the night, as I was turning through the pages of scripture, I came across this verse and I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I just sat in my closet reading the verse over and over. Those words were like a slap in the face. 

Right there, in black and white, were words that I desperately wanted to unsee. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:18.  I remember thinking “Lord, you really want me to be thankful during this trial?” 

Being thankful didn’t sound exciting. It was actually confusing because I couldn’t understand how being thankful for heartache, pain, and betrayal was going to help me. I learned some really important lessons about being thankful during those times and I’m going to share them with you today.

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That bible verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 threw me for a loop during that season in my life. The more that I read, studied, and prayed I realized that God was serious about this whole being thankful thing. So I decided to start trying it out. 

When someone would hurt my feelings, I would thank God for the self-control not to attack them with my words or my hands. It was really difficult at first (the words not hands), but over time I have found that being thankful and having gratitude has gotten a lot easier. 

A lot of that is because I understand it better. There are lots of verses in the bible that talk about being thankful and having gratitude. That’s a great place to start, reading the verses over and over again to change your heart and change your mind and to begin to get quiet before the Lord.  

Let Him just speak to your heart and teach you some things. I want to start our conversation off today by looking at gratitude, what it is, why it’s helpful, and some practical stuff about how to get started with the practice. 

What is Gratitude?

The first thing we’re going to start with is the definition of gratitude. You know I love words and I love starting with definitions and understanding what in the world we’re talking about. Gratitude is, very simply, showing appreciation for or to, or being thankful for the good things that are going on in your life.

As Christians, we’re going to tie this into the word of God. I’m going to say for our purposes that gratitude is showing appreciation for and being thankful for, the things that God is doing in your life. That is the point when it comes to gratitude.

It’s not about looking around to find what’s all sunshine and rainbows in your life and being thankful and happy for that. It is about having the discipline and heart posture of being grateful to God all the time because when we do that, a lot of really good things happen.

Benefits of Being Grateful to God in Hard Times

There are lots of benefits to having a regular practice of gratitude. I think number one is that it’s going to lower your stress, like in that story that I told you at the beginning of this post. 

Lower Your Stress

I was very clearly stressed. Not only was I stressed, but I was also struggling with anxiety and depression and all kinds of things. I was not in a good place and that was because I wasn’t taking the time to look around and notice any good at all in my life. 

As far as I was concerned, I believed that it was all terrible, nothing was good, nothing had any hope, and it was all a hot mess. That meant that I was super stressed all the time. Because I was so stressed, I wasn’t sleeping. 

When you don’t sleep you don’t become a very nice person to be around. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all. That made it so much harder to show up and love my kids and serve well at school and in my job and all the things that I was called to do. It made it hard to do life.

Keep Your Focus on God

The next benefit is that it helps you to keep your focus on God. The Bible tells us that we should look to the hills from where help comes from. Help comes from the Lord. All that really means is that when you are going through stuff, you should focus on God. 

Keep your eyes on who he is, on what he says, and what that means for you and your situation. This is where having this practice of gratitude is helpful because you are not just making a list of all the things you’re happy about or that are going well in your life. 

You are keeping track of all the ways that you are seeing God show up in your life. You’re giving him thanks and being appreciative of the small and big things that he’s doing. Doing that means that you are looking for God throughout your day. 

You’re looking for God in your situation. You’re looking for God in your struggles and your pains, and keeping your focus on God instead of focusing on all the bad that’s going on. It’s what God wants you to do. He wants you to keep your eyes on him. 

Think back to Peter walking on the water. As long as he had his eyes on Jesus, he was fine. When he looked around at the circumstances, he was taking a swim. The same thing goes for you. When your focus is so much on what’s going on instead of on God, the person who’s in control, who loves you and cares for you and provides for you, and is there with you. 

It makes it hard. That’s exactly what I was doing. I was drowning during that time that I shared at the beginning of the post. When I learned to keep my eyes on God, I was able to breathe, I was able to see a little bit clearer, and I was able to keep going.

Boosts Your Mood

The third benefit of having a practice of gratitude is a boost in your mood. I talked about how I wasn’t sleeping or eating. I was cranky and I wasn’t a good person to be around. Practicing gratitude lowered my stress. And when I focused on God, it gave me a boost in my mood. 

My anxiety wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t so deep in the pit that I was struggling with depression as much. I could find joy and I could enjoy my life and have fun with my kids. I could show up and serve and be with the people in my life that God had put there for me to love and serve and do life with. 

It was so helpful not to be controlled by my emotions because they weren’t so up and down and all over the place. I wasn’t a slave to how I felt. That day I was able to have a good mood, and have good control over my emotions, and it made things a lot easier. 

Helps While You Wait on God

Another benefit that I want to talk about is that it’s going to help you while you’re waiting on God. What you do while waiting on God matters. Taking the time at the end of your day to sit and reflect on everything that’s happened in your day can help you notice where you see God showing up and providing. 

You’ll have a better attitude and a better heart posture. It’s going to give you that peace that you want and that’s also going to help you have the strength that you need to keep going. 

If you aren’t sure what to do with your overwhelming thoughts and emotions. Do you want to climb out of your pit of despair and move forward with support? Book a Mindset Coaching package and we can work on managing your emotions and renewing your mind together.

Practical Ways to Be Grateful to God in Hard Times

I want to spend the rest of this post looking at the practical stuff.  What being grateful in hard times looks like in real life.

Be Thankful For What You Have

The first thing to look at is giving thanks for what you have at a super surface level. When I first got started with this practice, I told you I had a really hard time getting going. I wanted to be thankful and practice gratitude, but I had a hard time being grateful because I feel like my whole life sucked. 

Learning to just start at a shallow and surface level helped. Looking around and asking myself what am I thankful for in my life? What did I get today? What did I do today that I can be thankful for? I started simple. Being thankful for a roof over our heads because there are people who don’t have a home. 

Thankful for the food we were able to eat and that we were not going hungry. Grateful that my kids had toys to play with, and that we were close to a playground to get outside and get some fresh air. I’d be thankful for my friends, thankful for this, thankful for that. 

As I started with the things that I did have, I was also able to just be grateful for the things that I did not have, but that I knew that God was able to give me. Thankful that I have access to self-control so that I don’t have to pop off and be rude or mean and hateful if somebody says something that I don’t like or if somebody mistreats me. 

I would be thankful for the peace that God promised, that I might not have been experiencing right in that moment, but that I knew was there if I just asked for it. So start by just looking around and being thankful for what you have. 

Look for Ways to Help Others

The second way that you can practice being thankful during your hard times is to be generous and look for ways to help other people. I shared before that one of the benefits of this practice is that you get your eyes off of yourself and your eyes are focused on God. 

This same thing happens when you look at other people. You are not going through hard times by yourself. You don’t live on this planet in some post-apocalyptic culture where there’s only one person alive. So look for ways that you can help others and be generous. 

When I say be generous here, I’m not talking just about money. If you have the means to be a financial blessing for somebody, by all means, have at it. But there are so many ways to be generous and to be a help to other people. 

Your time, can you go and sit with somebody and be a listening ear, be a friend? Can you invite somebody over for dinner? Offer childcare? What are the things that you can do that are going to be a blessing and an encouragement to other people? 

I have found this to be one of the things that makes me feel the most peaceful. When I’m having a bad day, I start looking around for somebody that I can bless. Because I’m not focused on myself, I’m focused on somebody else who probably has a little bit worse than I do. It feels good when I’m able to bring some joy and bring some light into someone else’s day.

Practice Being Content

The third thing is to practice contentment. This can be difficult because we believe that being content means that you don’t want better, don’t want things for yourself, and that’s not it at all. Paul says that he learned to be content and plenty and in want. Sounds like just being content with where you are. 

I’m going to tell you the secret to contentment when you’re going through hard stuff: remembering that God is in control. You are content where you are because you know that God is in control, he is with you, he hasn’t forgotten about you, he’s got a plan, he’s working things out, and he’s making a way. 

When you know that you’ll find peace, hope, and reassurance in that you can be content exactly where you are. Whether you’ve got a lot of good stuff or a lot of not-so-good stuff, you know that God is there, that God loves you, and that he is in control. 

That is where your contentment comes from. I don’t mean be content and just be happy that your life is terrible. No, your contentment is found in God. You can be content, even when you’re walking through something hard because you’re not going through it by yourself.  God is in control, he loves you, he cares for you, and he is looking out for you. 

Stay in God’s Word

The fourth way to help you practice being thankful is to stay in the word. Keep reading, keep studying, keep learning about God, keep finding his promises, and keep seeing all the ways that he has come through for his people in the past. 

You can look at those stories and those accounts in scripture and see the way that God provided for that widow when they were coming to take her sons. She had oil that just kept going and going until she was able to pay off all her debts. 

I am so thankful that God allowed this to be in scripture because when I look at that, it gives me hope. It lets me know that I do have oil in my house. I don’t have to be worried about being provided for and being taken care of because if he did it for her I know that he can do it for me. 

Be in God’s word. Let him show you who he is. Let him show you all the names, his nature, and his characteristics because inside every single one of those things is a promise to you. When God says “I’m a healer”, that is a promise of healing for you. 

When God says “I am Jehovah Jireh. I am a provider”, that means that there’s a way out for you. Get to know your scripture. Get close and friendly with your bible, because it’s going to give you hope, encouragement, and strength to keep going, no matter what’s coming at you. 

Honest Prayers

The next one is to be honest with your prayers. When you’re talking to God, when you’re praying, don’t try to polish everything up and show up all pretty. If you’re feeling like a hot mess that day, show up as a hot mess. God can handle it, he can take it. 

Just be honest, be open, be vulnerable, and let it all out. Tell God exactly how you feel. Exactly what you think, exactly what’s hurting you, and exactly what you want to see. Be honest with him and tell him all things, because the more that you can be open and honest with God, the better your relationship is going to be with him. 

The key to a good relationship is honesty and vulnerability, the same thing with God. If you’re showing up with your mask on, you’re not ever going to be close to God because you’re not showing up as your true Self. Just be honest. He already knows and it’s going to help you get a lot of stuff off your chest and you’ll find it easier to practice gratitude. 

Get Your Worship On

The final thing that I want to share with you is worship. Put on some good praise music, and some good worship songs, and have a time of worship with God. In those moments when I’m looking around my life and I’m like, Lord, I got nothing, I can’t find anything to be thankful for right now being able to put on some worship music and focus on that instead is the quickest way to get me out of that funk. 

I can worship God and I can praise God for his goodness, for the fact that he just exists in worship. When I can’t sit down, look around at my own life, and find something that I can be appreciative of I go for a walk. 

Lifting my hands and sending an offering all of my praise and worship up to God always helps, even when it’s hard. I can be in a time of worship and be in his presence because in God’s presence is where you find everything that you need.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Grateful to God in Hard Times

If you are walking through hard things, I just want to encourage you to put a practice of gratitude into your day and make it part of your daily time with God. Try it out for 30 days and see how you feel at the end. 

If you’ve read all of this, and you’re like LaToya that sounds great, but I’m still not in a place where gratitude or thankfulness seems possible. I just can’t wrap my mind around that. Can I invite you to come and work with me for some mindset coaching? My coaching tool, the Peace-Filled Mind Map™ is how I help my clients look at their thoughts and feelings to figure out what’s true and what’s not true. Then I help them learn how to change them and line them up with scripture. 

I understand being in that place. I was in that place and it is possible to think differently and feel differently and have more control over those things. I would love to work with you to help you do that. 

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