An Open Letter to Friends Who Don’t Feel Like Giving Thanks

Life can be really hard and disappointing. In America, we are preparing for our annual day of thanksgiving. But what if you don’t feel overly thankful?

I’m not writing this letter to anyone in particular, though I’m sure it’s influenced by experiences of people I know and love. And, like in all writing, there’s probably a little of my own experience mixed in. If you don’t feel like giving thanks right now, maybe this is for you.

Dear _____________,

I know this is a hard time for you for a lot of different reasons. I know the last thing you want is a pep talk. So, I won’t patronize you.

I also won’t pretend to teach you anything. You already know the things I’m about to say. They are truths you hav learned, rehearsed, held too, doubted, and returned to over and over again. You just need another reminder. And a bit of a nudge.

I’d love to be able to share this over a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of pumpkin pie. Forgive the format. An open letter on a blog isn’t too personal, I know. But here’s what I wish you would think about today. Life can be hard at times, even for people who really love Jesus. Here’s what I’d like to say to you if you were sitting across the table at the coffee shop from where I’m writing this.

I know you’re lonely. But, please, please, please, know you’re not alone. It may feel like you are alone. You may physically be alone right now. But you are not ultimately alone.

I wish I could make those feelings of loneliness go away. I can’t. We with redeemed souls, those who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness, still live in broken bodies. They are broken in all kinds of ways. Depression and dark feelings are part of this picture.

I wish I could wipe it all away for you. But that’s the beauty of the New Testament picture of resurrection: we won’t always live in these broken bodies. We will be made new. And the Apostle Paul says that what we experience now is light and temporary in contrast to the eternal glory that awaits (2 Corinthians 4:17).

That doesn’t mean it feels light. But there is a future perspective that will make it look light. Cling to that. Hold fast. Don’t give up.

Whomever or wherever you are, I have no doubt there are people who love you and want to be with you likely far more than you realize. They might not know how to best communicate that. They may not know what to say. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

And, as you know I was going to have to point out, God is with you. He sealed you with his Spirit the moment you trusted Christ. Though you may not feel it right now: he is with you. He won’t leave you. He won’t forsake you.

. . . be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)

I know you feel like a failure. You feel a million miles from grace. But you know that grace is like your shadow. It’s always with you. It follows you every where you go. But in the dark, it’s hard to see. You see, God’s promise to forgive you, if you confess your sin, isn’t based on something in you. It’s based in him. It’s because he is faithful and just. (1 John 1:8-10)

Maybe your biggest problem isn’t acknowledging your sin. Perhaps, it’s allowing his grace to seep into the deepest part of your soul. Maybe you find it difficult to give yourself one breath, one moment, where you allow your heart to truly feel forgiven. Punishing yourself just feels right.

God wants you to know how deeply loved you truly are. You can’t escape it in Scripture. He has already punished your sin on a cross two thousand years ago. How much does the Father love you? So much he did not spare the his own Son. Punishing yourself isn’t going to make it any better. Think on these things:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:31-32, ESV)

I know you feel hopeless. Sometimes hope takes time to float to the top. Give it time. You won’t always feel this way. Hope will win out in the end. It’s stronger than despair.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (I John 3:19-20, ESV)

Dear brother or sister, whatever your circumstances are that have made you lose your appetite for giving thanks, please know you are not alone, you are forgiven, and deep down, you have hope. You have God. Find someone who can bless you with their presence, being with you, listening, caring, perhaps weeping, praying . . .

Let’s rehearse these truths together. And let’s give thanks. Because deep down we know we have so much in Christ to be thankful for. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it.