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When It’s Hard to Be Thankful

In Advice and Encouragement, Relationships by Debra Fileta51 Comments

What if it’s hard to be thankful?

Have you ever experienced a time in life like that? I know I have. In fact, I originally wrote this post a few years ago when I was going through some of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced. Some of those challenges have passed with the healing power of time and with the sustenance of God’s goodness, but others have lingered, and I’m still trusting and believing.  I wanted to share this post again this year, in hopes that it will in someway breathe a encouragement of life into someone who is struggling this time of year. If you’ve feel that this post is for you, I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comment below so I can be praying for you by name this holiday season. — Debra


We’re told that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.  It’s a time to reflect, and to consider all the ways we’ve been blessed.  It’s a time to give our gratitude to God for our families, our home, and our health and our freedoms.  To count our blessings and hold close the ones we love.

I appreciate that perspective, because I think that there is a lot to be said about a heart of gratitude.  It’s important to take the time to thank God for all that is good in our life, and there is so much power in perspective.

But what if giving thanks means more than just counting our blessings?

What if being thankful meant surrendering our struggles, too?

As much as I want to be thankful for all the good this year, if I’m completely honest- this has been one of the hardest years of my life.  It’s come with a lot of trials, a lot of tears, and a lot of pain.  As I look back on this year, even some of the greatest joys have been rooted in moments of deep suffering.

I know I am not alone in my struggles.  

I can’t possibly begin to tell you about the countless emails I’ve received this year, as well as the numerous conversations I’ve had with people who are going through some really hard times.  Men and women struggling with loneliness, addictions, and anxiety. Depression, illness, and death.  Divorce, infertility, and injustice.  People struggling to deal with one hard thing or another.  Broken hearts, confused minds, hurting bodies.

Life can be so hard.  And sometimes, God can seem so very far away.  

For many people, the holidays aren’t filled with thanksgiving and cheer, because instead, they’re filled with pain and suffering.

They’re filled with the gnawing, aching reminder of what was lost–or what never was.  

Through the hard times, the most profound lesson I’m learning involves redefining of my definition of Thanksgiving.  I am challenged to be more than just “thankful”.

I am challenged to do something even more difficult–I’m challenged trust.

I am proclaiming right now that in times of suffering, a heart of gratitude means more than just saying “thank you”- it means believing that God is who He says He is.  Believing that He is good, that He is love, and that He is for me.  Believing that He never changes, that He never fails, and that He is working all things for what is good.

Whatever it is you are struggling through right now, may this Thanksgiving be a reminder of God’s everlasting faithfulness for your life.

No matter what it is you are going through, hold on to this truth with everything you have:

He has brought you this far, and He won’t leave you now.  

Whatever it is that is weighing on your heart and burdening your mind, be reminded that though you don’t understand the reason- there is a loving God that does, and He is walking by your side every step of the way.  He will never leave you, and He never has.

His plans for your life may include weeping for a moment, but joy will always come in the morning.

No matter what it is that we’re going through- I believe with all of my heart that if we knew what God knows, we would want to be exactly in this time and exactly in this place (Tweet it!).

As hard as it may be, there is no better nor safer place to be than smack-dab in the middle of His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  Because He knows best and there is no plan greater than His plan for our life.

Life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to, but it turns out just right.  I look back at the struggles of my past in light of who I am today, and I see God’s hand and purposes every step of the way.  He has brought us this far, and He won’t leave us now.

This is all part of a bigger picture- a picture far more beautiful, lovely, and perfect than we could ever begin to dream of.

This Thanksgiving, may you and I be challenged to trust God more, to believe Him better, and to know Him deeper.  His heart is good, His love is pure, His plans are magnificent.  Whether we feel it or not, it doesn’t cease to be true.

May you be challenged to be more than thankful this holiday season…as you lay down your pain and problems at His feet–and choose to trust Him again.  Grace and peace to you, dear one, as you learn to rest in the arms of a loving God.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Give Thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus.  

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine,, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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51 Comments on "When It’s Hard to Be Thankful"

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Deb Muller
I have been enjoying reading your blog. Your advice has been so helpful. I am a (divorced) 55 year old single mom and I have a 19 yr. old son. I have been sharing some of your blogs with him to try & guide him on how to have good God centered relationships. I wish I knew some of the things you’ve written about before I was married. This blog you wrote today about when its hard to be thankful really hit home for me. I needed the reminder. I’m in that proverbial waiting room, waiting for God to show… Read more »

This post really resonated with me. I had some very difficult years as a divorce mom but fortunately God is so faithful. I knew that He was filtering everything through His hands for my good and for His glory.

I had so much time to really soak in God’s Word and now that I have re-married, I find that those quiet times are much harder to come by. And I miss them!

Thanks for the reminder about being thankful for the really tough times. You are a blessing!


This is very encouraging for me to read. Thank you for sharing. I am also a divorced single mom. It’s very hard and sometimes so discouraging that the right man will come along. I am being faithful to God knowing in his time it will happen. I like the term God is “filtering” things out. Good perspective because we are three very special girls and need the right person in our life… Amen

David Aguilera Nnaji

Am so blessed by this particular blog. I’ve been in my wilderness and it looks as though, there is no war out but this blog assures me there is a way out. Thanks.

Ruphous Takang
Debra, thank you for this message so true of daily realities but so supportive message of our trials and difficulties. The beginning of this year was hard for my family as our daughter now 12 1/2 was so sick and was in induced comma for more than 2 months. She not only survived but is doing very well today and there is little indication that she ever was sick at all. She and her follower cooked for the Thanksgiving and we made it special. Indeed, ” Give Thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus.”… Read more »
Deb, I’d been feeling especially down these past few days while listening to all the people call in to our local radio station and talk about how thankful they were for their spouse and children. I just turned 30 and I haven’t been on a real date in years, and life just didn’t seem fair. But I recalled this afternoon how Richard Wurmbrand said in his book “In God’s Underground” that he became aware of the importance of praising God during his years and years in prision just as much as he did before and anticipated doing upon release. God… Read more »
Norah from Europe
Dear Debra, It is such a blessing for me to read this post at this hour, 5am in the morning, when I’ve suffered from insomnia again (with my left knee aching, but that’s another story) and had another sleepless night. I wouldn’t wish this for my worst enemy. During insomnia you feel like you’re alone in this whole wide world and that loneliness is deep, desperate and extremely painful. It is very hard to be thankful during these circumstances, but then again, I think I’m beginning to learn a very valuable lesson from all this pain: trusting God shouldn’t be… Read more »
Bitia B.
I have enjoyed your book and I have especially enjoyed this post. I’ve felt so burdened, depressed, and anxious these past couple of weeks, maybe even two months now. I’m from Mexico but I’ve been living in Texas for 3 years now. There are a lot of things going on back in my home country that are awful and it has been scary to watch. But because I have been gone, I feel so powerless. Coupled with that, I have a wedding of one of my best friends back home the week right after Thanksgiving, so I won’t be going… Read more »
This is a beautiful post backed up by the Holy Scriptures. Believe the words of the almighty and not your circumstance. Psalm 1 is a blessing to me. ‘ blessed is the man that walk not in the counsel of the ungodly …….. You are blessed, I am blessed. Then it goes on to say ‘ he shall be like a tree planted by the river that bring forth fruit in season, your leaves shall not wither and whatsoever you do, it shall prosper’. This is the word of the Lord. Read the Holy Scripture and stay in the word,… Read more »
Simeon Waigi
Deb, I so relate to the above article. May the Lord continue using you to impact lives through this blog.I am 24 and graduated this year from the university. This was a dream come true which I totally owe it to our Almighty God. However the aftermath of campus life has made 2014 one of my toughest years. It has been coupled with loneliness and job uncertainty. I have been working part time & each day I wake up hoping to get a permanent job. It’s been a season where I have been extremely in lack financially. However God has… Read more »

How do you know that you are “smack-dab in the middle of His good, pleasing, and perfect will”? At the times when I’m struggling to be thankful, I also find it hard to know whether I’m doing what God wants me to do, or if I have somehow messed up his plans (again).

Thank you for your reminder to trust Him. Five years ago on the day after Thanksgiving, my mother passed away after a dreadful battle with ovarian cancer. She truly was my best friend. And, while I wouldn’t wish her back from Jesus’ presence for anything, I miss her, especially during the holidays. Since she passed, I am the sole caregiver for my dad who had a brain tumor removed years ago. The surgery removed the cancer, but also took much of my father’s memory and thought processes. This is not what I ever thought my life would be at 35.… Read more »
Deborah, Thank you for this article. To all those out there here are some ideas. I am thankfull for a roof over my head I am thankfull for my cat I am thankfull for the food pantries even though I had a full time job I an thankfull for being single at 40, it means the best is yet to come. I am thankful to god for allowing me to have a learning disability, it has made my different and taught me lessons few can learn. I am thankful for every sunrise I see. We all need to find something… Read more »

Thank you, B, for sharing. What an inspiration!


thank you for this advice Debra since am going through a painful break up that i never expected ,iam so grateful to always receives e mails from you .stay blessed

Daniel Pilat

Thank you Debra…Perspective is powerful. Sorry so late to reply. Giving God His rightful place keeps me a man in need of a savior.


Thank you for your encouraging and uplifting words. Your words are very timely and just what I needed to hear. God Bless You!

Damaris Hernandez

Thank you for this post! It’s been a blessing reading this. As I’m going through a break up after 6 years thinking he was the one but he decides to leave me, it has been one of the hardest seasons in my life. But through it all I have been able to seek God for wisdom and understanding though I don’t completely understand yet I know He is here helping me. Thanks again for this post.


Thanks for the post. It is comforting to know that God is always there and has a plan for me even in the struggles I’m having now! I suffer from depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. I’ve longed for a relationship with someone and thought I was about to have it but it wasn’t meant to be. I know God has a plan, I just sometimes with it would be fulfilled sooner rather than later!

Grace Smith

Hi Deb!
Thanks for posting this article-I am going through a great season of my life personally but what God’s been saying to me is trust-and he’s been saying that for years-so thank you for posting this and allowing God to speak to me through it:-)

It’s good to try to see all the ways God has blessed us. But I encourage you to also to speak to God about your disappointments and even the feelings of being betrayed by God. As an omniscient Being He already sees what you are going through. Just look at the book of Psalms – most the of psalms are songs of lament. What is the worst thing that could happen if you dare to be real with God? Maybe he will answer you from the whirlwind like to Job! He loves us so much that he rather hears us… Read more »
Debra, Oh the struggle of trusting God. I think it may always be this way, at least I feel like it will always be this way and for now the thing that gets me through is exactly that; trusting in God being faithful. But it still hurts. I’m still aching from the end of a 2 month relationship that ended THREE years ago. The loss of someone who I began to care for very quickly and then realizing he and I didn’t fit was a shock and deeply penetrating headache that spiraled me to my lowest point and strong depression.… Read more »
Very interesting post, this morning while in the bathroom, Don moenz song “Give thanks” kept playing in my mind, I asked my self what thanks I ought to give. this year has been very tuff for me, hard a heart break, got depressed, lost alot of weight, was unhappy most of the week time. when I read yo post I got encouraged. Am confident to go to the throne room and give thanks. Though I experienced tuff times one fact remained God is the same yesterday today and forever and His promises. Thanks Deb God Bless you. the best days… Read more »
My best friend shared one of your posts with me a few months ago and I have been reading ever since. I can so identify with this post, 2014-15 has been very difficult for me. I felt like a lot of things I thought were sure fell from under my feet and I didn’t understand why…still don’t. But as you said, this is the time to trust God the most. His will is perfect for my life and even when I don’t understand, even when I’m hurting, crying, and in pain… I know it won’t last always. I’m already better… Read more »
Dear Debra! I feel so broken and discouraged right now. I prayed all my life to be with somebody and when that person came, I thought God has already granted his promise to me. But unfortunately, I was mistreated and unfairly loved by the man whom I thought would care and love me forever. Then I realized, I forgot to follow his plans for me. I forgot to trust him that I rely on my own actions and understanding. Right now, I don’t know what future awaits for me. What if my desires and my prayers are not his will… Read more »

This was just what I needed to read since it’s been one very difficult year. And just due to one thing but several, one after the other so trying to be thankful has been beyond difficult. So much so that I just don’t want to participate in any gatherings or festivities. I will need to read this several time so it can sink in. Thanks for posting it.

Elizabeth F.

Hello, great post! So timely, thanks for sharing. Please keep me in prayer for a completely healed, restored and surrendered life, mind and heart by and to the Lord and also for complete preparation for and provision of the right, godly husband for me. And for complete, permanent and lasting healing, deliverance, victory, restoration and breakthrough for me and my entire family in all areas in Jesus Name, Amen! Thank you!

Justin Bailey

I read your post on singleness during the holidays first and both of them helped me- changed my perspective. But I am not there yet. It’s thanksgiving morning, the day has just started and it truly feels like my family doesn’t want me here. It feels like this every time I come over. A feeling that I don’t measure up! I would greatly appreciate prayer!

Hi my name is Elishia and I Read your blog when it is hard to be thankful. I have been having a hard time to be thankful beacuse I have been going through some Personal thing’s. Like I have not been feeling we beacuse been having really bad Migraines and my head has been Bothering me and I have been having Negative thoughts running in my head. The holidays are hard for me because I last my dad last year. But he was a believer. I would like prayer so I could move forward to what Jesus may have plan… Read more »
Debra…I just finished reading the Dealing with Storms article and it hit home (and I actually got through without crying haha). Now, I got to this post and within reading the first couple sentences tears sprung up. This…I wish I had heard this truth when I struggled so hard years ago. But I am so thankful for it now. The timing on this is perfect…was filled with impatience and unsurety of the future tonight. I am saving both these articles to my computer…going to read through them often to be reminded of these truths. Thank you so much for doing… Read more »
Thank you so much Debra for this gentle reminder of Gods goodness, grace, and mercy. I also want to remind everyone that God never ever gives us more than we can bear. So even when it seems like it’s too much, we must remember that God knows our strength better than we do. He knows what we can and can’t endure. So as you said, we must trust in him and stand on the promises of his word. We must remember that whatever we’re going through, we can and will endure it. And in the end we will have the… Read more »
Shay Johnson

Thank you for this, Ive never felt so alone and abandoned. Families and people have forgotten the meaning of holidays, But God has not forgotten me and you. All of us. So i will rejoice and be glad. Be grateful.Let’s count our blessings, and forgive those that hurt us and curse us. I don’t want bitterness in my heart no more.

Honestly, it is almost unbearable to read articles like this, written with a triumphalist tone. I mean yes, if there is a happy end, then probably it is easy to look back and say all is fine in the end. Let’s not forget though that the happy end may never happen in this life. You can be lonely and never be cured of it. Marriage may never happen, even if you have no gift of celibacy. You may be barren not only for a while, for “a season”, to use the wooden language of cliché encouragement, but for life. You… Read more »

I hear you Donna! I really wish I could tell you what to do, but I have no idea. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you’re not the only one who feels this way or asks these questions.

Latrease Jones Jr
It has been so hard on me this past year. I have a very controlling mom. It’s almost like she is a dictator and my older siblings are her generals listening for her to give out orders. Anyway, I’m 28 with a visual disability and I was pregnant with my first child. My mom forced me to get an abortion last month on October12th. My fiancé has since moved on. I feel so alone. We both prayed to have the baby and my mom ripped away our happiness saying you and him can try again next year and I’m just… Read more »
Jess from CA
My dad passed unexpectedly this past Aug. I am 26, working seasonally as a Wildland firefighter. I quit my job in WA when my mom called and moved home to “help and support” family. I’m finding myself more in need of help and support than others because my life isn’t as stable. My father was God’s man to a T, loving, kind, strong, firm in faith. I fell away from church in the past few years and haven’t been pursuing God as I remember being told. Now I feel in need of church and fellowship, but I’m so lost, uncertain,… Read more »

Hi, Debra! I have been a faithful reader of your blog for a couple of years now and I would love to have you be praying for me this holiday season.
I am working hard at being grateful this year and being content…but it’s hard. My heart’s desire is to be married and celebrating with my own little family and my in laws…but I’m not there yet….and watching others enjoy what I long for. I pray to give those desires to Jesus and let Him do His perfect work!


“Life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to, but it turns out just right. ” I would rather say “Life doesn’t turn out how we expect it to”. That word, “always” gave me the feeling that some people really have good lifes… I mean, my life doesn’t turn out how I expect it to, in many ways and aspects…

Karen Gonyer
Thanks for the reminder of God’s love. I’ve been with my boyfriend for six years and four of those engaged. I found out over this past summer is in contact with an old girlfriend. They text once in awhile and go on walks together once in awhile. I got suspicious last April and started looking at his cell phone messages. We were having problems and broke up but a couple months later (June) we got back together. The texting had stopped but started again in August. The texts are not sexual in content but he is playful and flirty with… Read more »