5 ways to be thankful when life isn’t perfect

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Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (MSG)

There are a lot of bible verses about thanking God through hard times. 

However, I know when life isn’t perfect and I read them I often think, ‘That’s easy for you to say but you’re not going through what I am. You wouldn’t be thankful if you were in my situation either!’

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that makes me want to roll my eyes sometimes. 

Be cheerful. NO. MATTER. WHAT. 

Really? Was the person who wrote this even human? 

Once I’ve calmed down I usually see how the three of these things impact on each other. They are a cycle really:

Pray  Thank God  Be cheerful  Pray  Thank God...

I sometimes forget that joy follows gratitude, and that the way to thank God is to pray. (tweet this)

If you’re struggling with being thankful for an imperfect life at the moment here are three tools I’ve used to try and be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.

I haven’t quite got it. But who has? Hopefully this will help get you into a cycle of praying, thanking and joying (that is most definitely a word). 

1. Toe to head thank you
As a teenager I heard Mike Pilavachi speak at a Soul Survivor event. I can’t remember most of what he said but one thing stuck with me: a prayer of gratitude when you wake up in the morning. I still do this from time-to-time. Basically the idea is that as you wake up in the morning you start at your toes and you thank God for the ability to wiggle them and then you move up naming various body parts and why you are thankful for them until you reach your head. I generally find at the end of this prayer I’m pretty cheerful about the day ahead.

2. Grace
Another way to build gratitude into your life even when you aren’t feeling it is to say grace before your meal. Don’t make this a rote prayer that you learnt at kindergarten. Use each meal as an opportunity to thank God for one good thing in your life. If you’re really drawing a blank, you can always simply thank him that you have food for one meal. 

3. The Ann Voskamp method
A few years ago now, Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful book about how she learnt to embrace gratitude through hard things. It is called One Thousand Gifts and if by some chance you haven’t read it yet, you should. Without giving too much away the basic premise is find 3 things to be grateful for each day. Ann Voskamp’s lists always read like poetry. I tried my own list for a couple of months while Xylon had chemo and I definitely found myself noticing the small things to be thankful for that I might have otherwise missed. 

4. Sunset thank you 
One of my cousins, Pam, was telling me recently how from the time her children are small she tells them every time they see a sunset that God loves them and just like the sun sets every evening God’s love for them will never change. I thought this was a beautiful idea. It also made me think of the sunset as an opportunity to thank God for being part of the day we just lived. Even if I didn’t feel him there the sunset reminds me that was. 

5. Last thought at night
Something I try and do each night as I fall asleep is thank God for at least one thing that happened that day. This prayer is usually really sleepy but it helps me to fall asleep in good frame of mind and forget all the difficult things that might have happened in the day. 

One important thing to note: I don’t want to burden you down with something that will become hard to do. Following God shouldn’t be about keeping a list of things to do. So if you read through the list below and you think, ‘This sounds like just one more hard thing to make God happy.’ then don’t feel like you have to do it. 

I’m certainly not keeping score. 

And God loves you just the way you are. Right now. Doing you, the way he made you.

Ponder: Do any of these ideas sound doable to you? Do you think they’d help get you into a cycle of cheerfulness-prayer-gratitude?

Prayer: God, sometimes life gets me down and I find it hard to see things to be thankful for. Open my eyes to see the gifts you’ve given me in my life. I’m going to start by thanking you for loving me enough to come to earth and die so we can live together forever. Amen.

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