It’s Not Enough to Just Be Thankful

The last year of our family’s life has been hectic. We endured seasons of late nights, little sleep, over-commitment, too much work, and little rejuvenation.

It wasn’t all bad.

We have a beautiful baby boy, Tyler and I have put more money in savings than ever before, and we enjoy the community and friendships we’ve built over the last few years. I’ve maneuvered homeschooling E, though it’s rarely easy but amazing anyways, and Tyler has built a pretty decent portfolio in design and photography. I discovered a new-found love for hot yoga and re-entered the running world with some sluggishness.

There has been so much joy, provision, and blessing in our lives.

But I’m worn out, too. Sometimes, I think I could sleep a whole 24 hours if given the time. Most often, I feel little peace in my heart. I struggle with anger and bitterness, most of which Ethan and Tyler bear the brunt of, and my response to struggle is fleeing.

Apparently, this may actually surprise some people I know in real life. When I posted this blog post, an overwhelming number of people responded in such encouraging ways. I’m really not down on my life, though. I love my life, and often I appear laid-back, calm, and easy going. And for the most part, when I’m not at home, I am. It’s easy to mask my frustration and anger. After all, so many other people have harder things going on than I do.

I often remind myself I should just be thankful and go with the flow. And I think I am thankful…for a while. But it’s not real thankfulness. It’s not real joy.

Being thankful in our circumstances is great. We are called to a life of thankfulness. However, I’m discovering “being thankful” isn’t always enough.

It’s not enough to just be thankful for a break when I’ve put myself in a circumstance that isn’t healthy for my family. It’s not enough to just be thankful for work, when my husband and I are over-committing in hopes of making more money. It’s not enough to just be thankful that we’re alive when we are overindulging and emotionally eating to the detriment of our health. It’s not enough to just be thankful we have community if we’ve created a bubble around ourselves and rarely interact with other people, let alone fulfill the great commission.

It’s like not seeing the beauty of spring because we’re stuck inside cleaning all the things we hoard in life. Which holds more value? Which holds more beauty?

Really, it’s not enough to label what I feel as “thankfulness,” when in reality it’s not. It’s not thankfulness. It’s complacency. My complacency says what I have right now is ok, even if it’s not what is best for me or those around me. It’s sticking to the easy when action and change are necessary. It’s accepting what I have out of laziness and fear.

Real “thankfulness” isn’t abuse of ourselves and others. Real thankfulness is more than just a phrase we toss around. Real thankfulness isn’t selfish or unmotivated.

The stance of my heart changes everything.

With my heart I have the opportunity to hope for the best for my loves and myself, and with my heart I have the capacity to be envious of others and think I deserve more. With my heart I can complete acts of service for others, and with my heart I can hope for compliments and recognition. Both I can label as “thankfulness,” but only one heart stance truly shows a grateful and hopeful outlook on life. Only one type of thankfulness produces joy.

Joy-filled thankfulness is enough. This thankfulness is genuine. It’s thankfulness in peace or in hardship. It’s working with what we have for God and trusting him in the results, even if it’s not what we expected. It’s glorifying God with all we have. It’s practicing humility, getting dirty, and seeing results because we know we are to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:23-24).

With this thankfulness at heart, I can endure the same disobedient behavior from my son multiple times a day and still correct him with love and grace instead of indigence. I can clean the never-ending pile of dishes happily and maybe even hum a tune because I’m not finding my worth through the compliments I’m hoping to earn or the momentarily spotlessness of the kitchen. I can be motivated to make time to write because I feel a passion and calling to put my thoughts down instead of suggesting the current season I’m in is just too busy for writing.

A life of complacent thankfulness will never fulfill. It’s not enough. But a life of trust in the Lord’s goodness, providence, and provision abounds in joy. It spurs us on to faithful living.