How to Be Thankful When You Don’t Feel Thankful

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

[Speak] to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father. Ephesians 5:19-20 NASB 

Every time I slid behind the wheel of my cheerful yellow car, I gave thanks. The Lord had provided this used car at an affordable price just in time for a cross-country trip. It was perfect for hauling my toddler and preschooler and a direct answer to prayer. That’s why I couldn’t understand why I had to lose it.

My husband, Larry, and I spent a month on a mission trip in Eastern Europe. The experience filled our hearts and emptied our pocketbooks. Our mission organization required us to raise money for our salary and the trip. Donations came in designated for the trip, however, we returned to short paychecks. We realized some donors had diverted their regular support for our trip, not added to it.

Larry’s elderly grandfather passed away, and Larry’s parents offered us his 1973 green Buick La Sabre. Since Granddad’s car wouldn’t sell for much, Larry decided to sell my car to solve our financial shortfall. The green giant had baked in the hot Arizona heat during Granddad’s decline. Rust spots showed through oxidized paint, the vinyl roof peeled like a bad sunburn, and the dingy interior recalled Granddad’s years of smoking.

Larry and I worked with high school students in one of the wealthiest areas in the country. Their up-to-date sports cars highlighted our rundown vehicle. Our church parking lot gleamed with polished Mercedes and BMWs.

One day, a young man helping me carry my groceries said, “Let me guess which car you drive.” He pointed out cars I wished I could claim. Reluctantly, I pointed to the green dinosaur. “Oh. I like vintage cars,” he said politely.

The car was also unreliable. One morning it stalled on at a busy eight-lane intersection with my children in their car seats. A kind stranger in the next lane saw our predicament and motioned for us to join her.

A friend, wanting to surprise Larry, arranged to have the car painted and a new vinyl roof installed. Our dated monstrosity returned sporting a fresh exterior, but it was not the sporty car I still missed. Disappointment washed over me. That night, as I returned home after carpooling students from Bible Study, I sensed the Lord interrupt my pity party. Debbie, have you thanked Me for this car?

Thank You? How can I thank You when I am not thankful?

Scripture filled my thoughts. “Give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28, NASB).

To refuse to give thanks now would be blatant disobedience. Oh Lord, You know how I feel about this car. How can you ask me to be thankful?

The pressure persisted. “Lord, I do not feel thankful. This car is ugly and unreliable.” I took a deep breath and went on. “But if you insist—THANK YOU; thank you for knowing my needs. Thank you that this is your will for me now. And thank you that you will use this for my good.”

Although I did not wake up to a new car, I woke up to a new attitude.

My grudge and self-consciousness vanished. And whether because we’d replaced every hose and valve or because of God’s grace, the car stopped breaking down.

The next year we moved from sunny California to northern Indiana. The green giant’s spacious interior and smooth ride provided a delightful trip. It started every morning in the below freezing temperatures with the first crank. Its heater never failed. While fellow seminarians worried about how the salted roads would tarnish their cars, we had no concerns.

The car became a great blessing and moved us to Oklahoma, where we finally sold it. This unwanted gift taught me a valuable lesson in the art of giving thanks. It’s not hypocritical to thank God before you feel thankful. Giving thanks is about trusting God, and God really does work all things together for the good of His children.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

How to Be Thankful When You Don’t Feel Thankful – insight on #Gratitude from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at

Join the conversation: Have you ever struggled to be thankful?


7 thoughts on “How to Be Thankful When You Don’t Feel Thankful

  1. Yes I’ve struggled, but God once again, showed me his faithfulness and that he heard me through your devotion.
    My son decided to move from CA to Indiana and we have family in OK and this reminded me to be thankful in all circumstances once again. Thank you.


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