How to be thankful when you’re not!

breathe again cancer faith

Figuring out how to be thankful when you’re not is tricky.

We’re Brits in the USA and so we came to this land of opportunity with absolutely no idea what to do over Thanksgiving.

Every family had their own traditions involving varying amounts of football, shopping, turkey eating and, in some instances, a strange culinary conundrum called sweet potato pie.

What’s with those marshmallows smoothed on top??

Yet whatever people ate or drank, no matter which football team they rooted for or how much traveling to family they had to navigate, one thing was clear.

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude.

Over the years, as our lives skipped merrily along it, was easy to be grateful but when that ease and security were shattered by the death of my sister from cancer swiftly followed by my own diagnosis, giving thanks wasn't my go-to response.

I couldn’t see anything worthy of thanks.

Navigating all that comes with a diagnosis left me tired, angry, nauseous and questioning.

My underwhelmed faith and overwhelmed heart were as inclined to give thanks as a tween boy is to spontaneously showering.

I just didn’t feel thankful and yet God still commanded me to give thanks.

He doesn’t just ask us to be thankful He commands us – no matter what life throws at us. We’re to give thanks in all circumstances because it’s his will for our lives. (1 Thess 5:16-18).

And psychologists know why.

They tell us practicing gratitude through thick and thin increases not just our sense of well-being, but also our happiness, optimism, connection, empathy and even reduces our aggression.

If being grateful is so ridiculously good for us and God commands us to do it, what are we meant to do when we don’t feel thankful?

I’ve discovered that the answer lies in the fact that when we give thanks our perspective changes.

We don't need to see things differently to be grateful, rather be grateful to see things differently.CLICK TO TWEET

We mustn’t wait to feel thankful to be thankful.

When I was diagnosed with rectal (yes rectal 💩 😳 ) cancer the bottom fall out of my world and it wasn't too long before the world fell out of my bottom 🤪 .

I jest and yet when I gave thanks for my ostomy bag it transformed from a leaking, bulging poop bag on my midsection to a medical miracle allowing me to heal and get chemo (not to mention walk, talk and poop) simultaneously.

Eventually, I discovered that when we give thanks for the good, the bad and the ugly, we discover God is near and that “the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

If, like I was, you’re struggling to find the blessings in life and you feel anything but thankful right now, can I invite you to simply start small.

  • What has made you smile, even for just a moment in the last year?
  • Name something beautiful you can see?
  • Who has noticed you recently?
  • What small things do you own you'd be lost without?

Then, eventually, you may find you're ready to give thanks for the wreckage of your life as well as the rubies.

When our pain screams, our gratitude must shout louder to drown it out with praise. Then and only then can we truly discover that life doesn’t have to be pain free to be full.



I have an entire chapter on Practicing Gratitude in my new book Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart.


 It’s a road map for thriving, not just surviving, no matter what life throws at you and I’d love to send you the Intro and 1st Chapter straight to your inbox for FREE.

Breathe Again is for anyone whose life has fallen apart, either over night or slowly over time. If you need a no nonsense, down-to-earth practical friend who’s been where you are, who’ll help you dig for the rubies buried in the rubble on your life, this is the book for you.
It’s not a quick fix, “how to keep going” kind of book. It’s a road map to finding all God has for you, right in the middle of all life’s thrown at you. Just click the orange button and I’ll send you the first chapter and intro so you can begin to breathe again right this minute.

“This book offers real help and tangible hope.”

Sheila Walsh – cohost of Life Today and author of It’s Okay Not to Be Okay