I Can Be Thankful in Spite of My Feelings

I Can Be Thankful in Spite of My Feelings

When paranoia makes me defensive, I’m too busy arguing to be thankful. When depression drains the life out of me, I don’t care about anything enough to be thankful.

So when the Bible tells me to give thanks in all circumstances (I Thes. 5:18), it sounds like an impossible task. How on earth could I get my brain to cooperate with that?

I have free will and I can choose to obey. I don’t have to wait for my mood or emotions to agree.

Psalm 103:1-5
Praise the Lord, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

David is telling his soul to praise the Lord. In this psalm, he’s not encouraging himself to feel better; he’s commanding his mind to think a certain way.

My will is more powerful than my mind. It may not feel like it because the enemy has been lying to me all my life, telling me I’m a victim of whatever my mind thinks. But God’s Word tells me otherwise.

Proverbs 3:5 NLT
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
   do not depend on your own understanding.

Understanding happens in the mind; our will to choose to trust in the Lord is in our heart. And this proverb tells us that we can choose to obey whether or not we understand.

In the case of mental illness, understanding is made even harder because the mind is being impacted by a broken brain.

If you have chosen to read this blog, then you have chosen to expose your mind to God’s Word. And you can also choose to be thankful, whether you feel like it or not.

But what does that look like?

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be original.

The Bible is full of other people’s words thanking, praising, and worshiping God. I can use their words until I have some of my own.

Psalm 118:28
You are my God, and I will praise you;
   you are my God, and I will exalt you.

Quoting the Bible to offer thanks to God not only honors Him; it also changes me. I’m putting God’s Word in my eyes, and ears when I say them out loud (Prov. 4:20-22). And I’m putting it in my mind and heart, where it can transform me from the inside out (Romans 12:2).

Psalm 103:1-5
Praise the Lord, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

When I have no thankfulness of my own, I don’t have to try to drum it up artificially. I can borrow the thankful words of others in the Bible and know that my choice to thank Him in spite of my circumstances honors Him.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be emotional.

Some might say that it’s empty religion to simply quote the Bible when it’s not connecting to your heart (emotions). But having lived with mental illness, I know that my emotions can’t always be trusted and I can’t let them lead my life.

I can choose to thank God even if my emotions are absent. And that choice is not based on religious ritual, but on my relationship with Him.

Psalm 40:8
“I desire to do your will, my God;
   your law is within my heart.”

When David couldn’t sing to God because of the pit he was in, he still honored God by waiting for Him. He waited because He trusted that God would rescue him. He waited in faith. And God did rescue him and give him a new song.

Psalm 40:2-3
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
   and put their trust in him.

I don’t have to wait for my emotions to line up; I can choose to thank Him for what He has already done for me. This builds hope and I can trust Him even when I don’t feel Him.

Thanksgiving only has to be intentional.

Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

God’s Word knows the difference between emotions and intentions. And it provides for both.

God is emotional and we were created in His image. So our emotions come from Him and we are encouraged throughout His Word to bring our emotions to Him.

But when the emotions aren’t there, or they’re present but not cooperating, we’re left with intention. And we can choose to bring that to God in praise and thanksgiving.

Hebrews 13:15
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

What are some ways you choose to be thankful in spite of your mood or emotions?

Photo credit: Cairomoon

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