How to Be Grateful in the Midst of Your Struggle

It’s that time of year, filled with thankful trees, Advent candles, Christmas wishes and New Years Resolutions.

I decided to launch this week’s blog post a little early so it would be gracing your inbox just in time for Thanksgiving. I debated somehow including a recipe for a killer apple cheesecake pie, but didn’t want to completely destroy my brand. (Seriously though, it’s delicious).

If you’re anything like me, you might have woken up this morning and wondered how on earth are you supposed to do this. How can you be grateful and feel joyful when you’re stuck in the middle of a struggle? When you feel mired in negative emotions, it can be hard to feel joyful, merry, and bright.

Depending on where you are in your life, this time of year can make your struggle seem even harder.

If you’re single, you may be feeling that ache a little more as your news feed fills up with engagement announcements and holiday parties. Extra time with family can stir up all the negative of family drama. As New Years approaches, you may feel like a failure for not breaking free this past year.

If pornography, fantasy, or masturbation are things you use to cope, all that stress and sadness can drive you deeper into a struggle with lust. And when you’re stuck in that cycle, you may feel far from grateful.

But what if I told you:

Practicing gratitude can actually help you overcome your struggle.

It’s counter-intuitive and requires some work, but it is true. If pornography is something you use as an escape to cope with stress or anxiety, gratitude can help calm your stress or anxiety.

Think about it with me for a minute. Let’s examine the cycle so many of us can find ourselves trapped in.

You wake up discouraged. Perhaps you didn’t sleep well. Maybe great aunt Ruth came in from town last night and drove you nuts. If you had your choice you would stay in your room and disconnect from reality for a bit.

You imagine what it would be like to be married and let the fantasy play out in your head. There is no way you can handle the family drama waiting for you when you open that door. It’s too much. Life, in your opinion, sucks. You wish you weren’t in this situation. No one sitting in that dining room knows you. They’re going to laugh and joke and share stories but no one is going to see you’re hurting.

So, you launch a preemptive strike. You’re going to get enough good feelings coursing through your blood to be able to get you through whatever today holds.

Pornography can be like a drug.

You pull out your phone, lock the door, and indulge. Then, you make your way to the family gathering, numb. What did I just do? How could I do that?

What is wrong with me?

As the family lists off things they’re thankful for, shares gifts, or laughs around the table, you feel trapped. Disconnected. Walking in a bit of a twilight zone.

If only they knew. 

And it’s hard to feel thankful in that moment. In fact, the tendency might be to slink away to your room for a “nap” and binge on pornography. After all, you’ve already blown it today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. You know what? Maybe next year.

Gratitude can be like scissors

If your struggle feels like a mess of twisted up string, gratitude can be like scissors. It cuts through and puts a stop to the tangled web of shame and lies we tell ourselves. With gratitude our perspective changes from magnifying our problems to magnifying the good things in our lives.

In some ways, it seems, gratitude and lust compete for the same space. They both answer the same questions asked of voids in our lives. Lust simply distracts from it or masks it while sincere gratitude can fill it.

Lust can find no place in a heart that knows it is blessed.

But what if you don’t have much to be grateful for?

Life can be hard for some of us. Maybe your family really is toxic and dysfunctional. A recent breakup can sour the heart too. You may not feel you have much to be grateful for. Trying to think of things in your life to be thankful for may actually make you feel worse.

If the traditional list of #blessings doesn’t resonate with you, think outside of yourself.

Be grateful for who God is.

As fickle as we are, God is unchanging. If you can’t seem to find anything in your life to be grateful for (though I am sure there is actually plenty), focus on the character of God. Be grateful for His love for you, and His promises to you. Claim those promises, even in dark places where you can’t see a way out.

Be grateful for what others have been given.

Instead of being jealous or envying what other people have- a nice family, strong marriage, etc- rejoice with them in those things. Be thankful for how God has blessed them. Yes, life can be hard, but there is so much good in life that is worth celebrating.

Have faith for your own story.

This is a theme that keeps coming up for me recently- redemption is coming. It’s the story of the ages, the crux of grace, the essence of God’s interaction with us. We stumble and fall walking through this broken world, but redemption is coming. Do you believe that?

Then you can be grateful for it. Even now. Even in the hard. Even while your story is still broken and painful. Even in the midst of the struggle, you can be grateful knowing that God’s heart is for your freedom.

Gratitude is a choice.

It’s an intentional decision to find the good, even when it feels like there isn’t any. It’s a choice to press into blessing, to seek it out, to recognize it, and to say, “Even in the middle of this hard struggle, life is still good. God is still good and my story isn’t over.”

Whatever weighs you down this season- singleness, addiction, a recent loss, a broken family- isn’t the end of the story. Grace isn’t finished with you yet. And that gives us every reason to be grateful.