How to Have a Thankful Heart (When You Don’t Feel Thankful)

Having a thankful heart sounds great, but how do you practice thankfulness when you struggle to see the good in a difficult situation or the hope available in a world of trouble? 

A Thankful Heart Starts with Understanding Hope

Hebrews 11:1

  • “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hoping and wishing are two different things. 

Biblical hope is based on certainty, divine facts, and faith in what is true. Wishful thinking is uncertain. Wishing is taking a chance on something you aren’t sure the outcome of.  

  • Biblical hope is a confident expectation of something that is certain to happen. It is founded on what God’s Word says and what He wants.
  • Wishful thinking is saying something that you desire to be true yet having no facts to back it up. It is founded on what you want.  

A thankful heart doesn’t just happen; it takes trust and faith. But what it trusts in and has faith in makes all the difference. 

A thankful heart doesn’t agree with destructive lies. It rests in what is true and has eternity in mind. 

A Thankful Heart Finds Hope in Jesus

Psalm 34:17-18 (NLT)

  1. “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (emphasis added)

Those who call to Him for help… 

Those who are troubled…

Those who are brokenhearted…

Those whose spirits are crushed…

We can only imagine David’s heart behind these words as he faced a life-threatening situation. In the midst of a troubling situation, he spoke praises. These words are a calling for us today to speak praises and lead with a thankful heart, even when we are broken and crushed. 

David wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth… They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). When we start to praise the Lord, we become radiant; our faces can actually be transformed from being downcast to delighted. 

The problem many of us face is that we wait for our feelings to come around and inform how we think. But God’s Word says…

  • “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”—Isaiah 40:31

Waiting on our feelings never produces the fruit of hope and a thankful heart. However, waiting upon the Lord, calling upon Him, and praising Him does. 

Jesus offers hope to the hopeless. If you are hopeless, you don’t have to stay that way. You can operate out of a thankful heart. 

Jesus offers you hope, along with joy, peace, and thanksgiving!

A woman with a thankful heart waving towards the camera.

3 Ways to Shift Your Thinking and Have a Thankful Heart

  1. Tell your mind to get into alignment with your born-again spirit. 

Psalm 103:1-5

  • “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

David wrote about this alignment in Psalm 103. He told his soul to bless the Lord. He told his mind to not forget God’s benefits and then listed them: forgiveness, healing, redemption, lovingkindness, satisfaction, and renewal. 

Second Corinthians 10:5 tells us we are to take every thought captive. When you are in a pit of despair, hopeless, and struggling to have a thankful heart, take the thought captive and cast it at the foot of the cross (1 Peter 5:7). 

Paul wrote the church in Corinth and reminded them that the enemy will argue with the Word of God that says He is good and worthy of praise. The enemy will feed pretentious lies that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. 

When your thoughts seem to align more with the enemy than God, it is time to tell your mind to get into alignment with your born-again spirit. 

Remember, as a Christian, you have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). This means you have spiritual eyes and ears to see beyond the physical circumstances and into the spiritual reality.

In Jesus, there is no condemnation. You don’t have to hide your hopeless thoughts. Instead, give them to Jesus and ask His Spirit to speak to your soul and remind you of who He is and who you are. This is His desire for you! 

  1. Meditate on what is true, noble, pure, and praiseworthy. 

Philippians 4:8-9

  • “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

A thankful heart produces peace. The mind consumed with worry produces despair. This is why Paul wrote to the church in Philippi and reminded them that when anxiety, worry, or hopelessness came (and it would), lift it all up in prayer to Jesus and make their requests known. He also mentions doing this with a thankful heart. 

  • “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6-9 (emphasis added)

Following this passage, Paul tells us what to replace anxiety with: things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Again, this takes practice. In fact, the English Standard Version of the passage tells us to “practice” these things. 

  1. Have an eternal perspective. 

Philippians 3:20-21

  • “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

The foundation of a thankful heart is rooted in Jesus Christ. Our hope is knowing that Jesus died for our sins—past, present, and future— rose from the grave, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

Our citizenship is not of this world. If you are struggling to have a thankful heart, it is proof that this is not your home. You aren’t designed to be comfortable here. However, because the Holy Spirit dwells in your heart, you can be thankful here

Jesus said that He is the light of the world. And when we follow Him, we will not walk in darkness but have the light of life. He told us we will have treasures in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” 

Having an eternal perspective means you see heaven as your home, which gives you hope because there are treasures beyond your understanding, ones that cannot be ruined or stolen. They are secure and everlasting

The word "thankful" in a gold cursive script.

Bible Verses for a Thankful Heart

John 14:1-6

  • “’Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

  • “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Romans 15:13

  • “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 8:24-25

  • “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

In Conclusion… 

When you practice these ways of thinking, you will find thankfulness, gratitude, peace, and joy begin to well up inside. It is communion with the Holy Spirit inside of you that testifies to what Jesus did for you. This doesn’t mean your situations will magically disappear, but you will have the strength to overcome them and be more than a conqueror.