When "Gratitude" Makes You Skeptical

As I write this, I'm watching the last of our golden leaves slip to the ground. It seems I blinked only to find myself soundly in November and beginning our plans for the holidays. Today, I'm thinking about gratitude. It is the season, after all.  

I must confess that when people start talking about joy and gratitude, my gut-level reaction is typically skepticism. I think we've all seen joy and gratitude reduced to Hallmark sentiment and insipid happiness.

For those who are facing loss and life-shattering pain, this twisted picture of joy and thanksgiving can become a weapon of guilt and cold comfort. We can be left asking if joy requires us to live in denial of life's pain. If gratitude asks us to plug up our ears, rip out our aching hearts, or turn a blind eye to suffering.

Is this what Scripture means when it says to give thanks in all circumstances or "count it all joy"? 

Thankfully, no. 

Biblical joy is a steady anchor when we're thrashed about by tempests of sorrow. Biblical gratitude keeps our vision fixed on our Lord, walking to us on the waves.

Our joy and our thanksgiving are deep and sure - because they are grounded not in our circumstances but in God's character, in who He is, what He has done, in what He is doing. 

We give thanks because God is good when others are not, because He is faithful even when we don't understand His ways. We give thanks because His love is sure when others disappoint us, because He is just when evil seems to prosper. We give thanks because He has promised to bring redemption to its completion, to make all things new. 

If you're finding thanksgiving to be challenging this year, if gratitude is making you skeptical, turn your heart and mind to the One who is faithful and true. And in His presence, may you find joy.