What If I’m Not Thankful?

Reading Time: 3 mins

God’s love does not have an off switch. You cannot earn it or deserve it. And your thankfulness for it will not determine if you get it or not.

Growing up we weren’t allowed to eat a piece of that delicious turkey, or sample any of the stuffing, or potatoes, or gravy until we went around the table and listed a few things that we are thankful for.

I remember as I kid, sitting there, feeling frustrated that we had to go through this tradition. The food is right here, it’s getting cold, can’t we just eat? Why is everyone forcing me to be thankful?

Can you really be thankful when you’re feeling forced to be thankful? Or does your thankfulness sometimes turn to frustration?

This struggle with the demand to be thankful extends beyond the holidays, and sometimes even reaches into the Scriptures.

How many times have I been reading the Bible and come across a verse like Psalm 107:1, "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."

Sometimes when I read this passage, and passages like it, I feel like God is demanding my thankfulness, and the familiar frustration settles upon me once again.

And sometimes the demand feels like an insult because life has been hard. Thankful? Thankful for what? Thankful for the Coronavirus that is wrecking life? Thankful for a season that focusses on giving, which is cool, but when you don’t have a lot of money to give with it often ends up being embarrassing or stamped by debt I’ll be struggling with for the rest of the year, just in time to do it all over again in 2021? Thankful for medical emergencies? Thankful for vices and addiction? Thankful for child loss?

Sometimes when I read verses like Psalm 107, it feels a lot more like Law, like something I’m instructed to do, obligated to do. And since I’m obligated to do it, how can I be thankful? How can I be thankful when I’m mad and hurt? And if I’m not thankful how can I keep this command, this Law that Psalm 107 has burdened me with?

As I have wrestled with this, God continues to bring me back to this question:

Do I understand what David is being thankful for?

David had his own struggles in life, and there are times when David calls out to God in frustration. In fact, when Jesus is on the cross, and he cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”, He is quoting David from Psalm 22. And yet, in spite of all of the troubles that came his way, David is able to write Psalm 107, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Do I understand what David is being thankful for?

Maybe another way of asking that question is this: Do we sometimes focus on what we want, and take for granted what we have been given?

In the storms of life, it can feel like God has abandoned us. And when we look at verses like Psalm 107, they can feel pithy and trite, because it’s what we’re supposed to say, not necessarily what we feel, because in our sin we are focused on the dark valley that we are going through, and not the God who is going through that valley with us.

And that’s one of the things that King David understood so clearly. For even when he lashes out in Psalm 22, asking why God has forsaken him, he ends that Psalm recognizing the LORD’s working in his life.

David isn’t expressing thankfulness that he will be delivered from every storm and frustration that comes his way. He was expressing his thankfulness for a God that does not give up on him, does not abandon him, does not leave him alone to walk the valleys of life, does not leave him alone to weather the storms of life. But instead has promised to love him. Forever.

The word ‘love’ in this verse is the word “Hesed” which means ‘covenant faithfulness’ and 'loving-kindness’. David is thanking the LORD for being faithful to the covenant in which he promised to love us forever.

God’s love does not have an off switch. There is nothing you can do to outrun it or to make it run out. You cannot escape it. And you cannot earn it or deserve it. Your thankfulness for it will not determine if you get it or not.

This year, as I have contemplated, even wrestled with, thankfulness, I am thankful for a God that loves me, that is faithfully committed to loving me, forever, and that he does all of this, even when I am not thankful.

So, though there are times that verses like Psalm 107:1 feel like Law, they are forever gospel. For the love of God is not dependent on our thankfulness. The effectiveness of Christ’s death on the cross in our place and for our sin is not dependent on our thankfulness.

And for that, I am forever thankful.