Being Thankful vs. Giving Thanks

Confession: When November started and I saw the first of the month of gratitude posts I rolled my eyes.

Confession: When Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 gifts was all the rage I thought it was positive thinking mumbo jumbo and didn’t want to read it.

Confession: I don’t feel like giving thanks right now.

Once again, God has ransacked my plans.


85. Friends who send treats when they can’t send their presence.

The second day of November rolled around, and as is often the case, I was scrolling through my news feeds before spending time with the Lord. I saw a few of the “day two..I’m thankful for..” posts and vowed to myself that I wouldn’t participate. It’s just silly, I told myself. It’s just people saying good stuff they have going on in their lives and refusing to rejoice in the uncomfortable, or the bad, or the wherever God has them.

Oh but that Heavenly Father of ours has a sense a humor doesn’t He? I should really start to see it coming…but then I wouldn’t be blindsided and knocked over by truth and forced to sit it for a while so I guess it works out well.

I was reading from Joni Eareckson Tada’s book A Place of Healing (If you don’t know her story, Joni is a quadriplegic), and as providence would have it, she was talking about giving thanks and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

“God isn’t asking you to be thankful,” she said, “He’s asking you to give thanks.”


Just like that.

He swept in and left me breathless, and without excuse to not give thanks.

You see, being thankful involves my emotions, which are sometimes out of control. But giving thanks involves my participation and my choice about my situation. Giving thanks involves a step of faith, and steps of faith can often be hard.

Giving thanks doesn’t always come easy, and that’s ok. What’s not ok is choosing not to take the steps anyway.

86. A puppy who just wants all the attention and love I can give to him-unconditional love.

86. A puppy who just wants all the attention and love I can give to him (Even if he’s obnoxious and unrelenting)–unconditional love.

I love the concept Ann shares in 1,000 gifts, which I finally read and actually loved, that eucharisteo (grace, joy, thanksgiving) always precedes the miracle.

Maybe the miracle is that in giving thanks I will actually ultimately be thankful.

89. Finding a house with a yard for the dog, even if it's full of cats (who like to sleep on the shed roof)

89. Finding a house with a yard for the dog, even if it’s full of cats (who like to sleep on the shed roof)

So. I’m still not going to do thirty days of social media statuses on things that are going well in my life. But I am going to go before the Lord and give thanks. I am going to pick up the practice again of daily numbering ways I can give thanks.

102. People who know about and are willing to teach about soul care here in BiH.

102. People who know about and are willing to teach about soul care here in BiH.

Confession: I have no idea how Biblically sound or accurate this is. I don’t know if Paul purposefully wrote “give thanks” instead of “be thankful,” but I know that that’s what God spoke to me, and I know I am being called into a time of giving thanks. Praying that will lead to me ultimately being thankful.

How does giving thanks strike you? Is it easy for you? What are you able to give thanks for?

I’m linking up with The Secret Blogger Club and Thankful Thursday.


14 thoughts on “Being Thankful vs. Giving Thanks

  1. Really loved this post Stephanie! I’ve been struggling with the same thing, and also trying to give thanks even though I may not feel truly thankful.

  2. Great post Stephanie! I find that when I’m staying active and keeping busy it’s easy for me to feel thankful and actually makes me feel closer to God. When I find myself complaining internally and feeling bad overall, I realize it’s because I’m not taking care of myself! Funny how those things are related (at least for me!)

  3. Wow! I’ve never thought of it like this. But I love how you described “being thankful” as emotional and “giving thanks” as more of an action. We can be intentional about our actions. It’s something we have complete control over. It’s almost the “fake it till you make it” mentality. Like when you force a smile even though you’re not happy and you start to become more happy. Thank you for opening my eyes to this.

    Side note, I am reading 1000 gifts right now!!! What are the odds? I got it from my aunt for Christmas TWO YEARS ago and, like you, thought it was just one of those “feel good” things. Then a few days ago, I picked it up because I had it at home and I’m trying to meet my new years resolution of reading a certain number of non-fiction. I’m loving it!

    Anyway, thanks so much for linking up with Thankful Thursday. I really enjoyed your thought-provoking post!

  4. This is such a beautiful post!!!

    It reminds me in a parallel way of The Five Love Languages. If you haven’t read it, part of the theory is that we only think of love as a feeling and not as an action. But after you’ve been in a relationship for awhile, the feeling of love can fade, especially if you both lack the actions of love.

    The action of giving thanks can absolutely (IMHO) lead to the feeling of gratitude. Even the smallest of actions can make the biggest of changes in our feelings. I read this great marital advice earlier this year to help you not be annoyed at your spouse. When you notice your spouse has done that one thing that drives you up the wall, take a deep breath and think of five things your spouse does that you appreciate. That short mental exercise really gives me perspective and keeps me FEELING thankful for my husband all the time!

    • Thanks, Brita!

      I am familiar with the five love languages, you’re right the concept is similar! What I love about the five love languages is it helps you take the focus of of yourself (why aren’t you loving me??) and puts the focus on others…maybe that other person doesn’t receive love in the way that I give love and how can I give them love in the way they’ll best receive it.

      It’s not exactly the same here…but still this takes the focus off of ourself (and needing to feel thankful) and puts it back on the reality that God IS doing things (and has done things) worthy of thanks.

  5. I am so very grateful for all God has done in my life – none of which I deserved. Giving thanks comes easily as I remember this. All that I am and have is because He loves me. I still find that very humbling. Wonderful post!

  6. I love this, I know whenever I don’t feel thankful or a bit down on myself for something, the quickest way to right myself is to give back to others. My parents always taught me the best way to be happy was to lose yourself in service to others and I can’t say it’s steered me wrong thus far!

  7. Pingback: Thankful | The Circle Link-up November 2015 | The Cunningham Two

  8. I love how you distinguished between being thankful and giving thanks! I don’t think I have ever given it much thought how different they are! You are so right . . . sometimes it’s hard to be thankful because of circumstances or just a really sad mood. But even in those times, we can choose to give thanks to God for blessings that go far beyond our current circumstances or mood — namely his grace at the Cross that gives us hope, new life, and restoration.

    And I was the same way about One Thousand Gifts! I wrote it off as a mumbo-jumbo because it was a bestseller, but once I finally read it in October 2013 and started my own gift journal that year, it really rocked my world and changed how I look at small “gifts” as well as big ones. It brought a lot of rest to my weary mind that was prone to anxiety and worrying.

  9. Pingback: If you want your friends to pray for you, then buy them candles. (And other musings) | The Cunningham Two

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