The Bible tells us to be thankful in all things. We could probably have a pretty good debate about what that means and how in the world we can be thankful when times are hard or painful or full of grief.
We can, of course, "put on a happy face" and mouth platitudes when we feel ill, in pain, fearful, or filled with grief. But that is hypocrisy, something that is decidedly displeasing to God. And fake emotions will eventually be recognized by the people around us.
So, what do we do when we feel desperate for help, but are being told that as God's people we must be thankful?
Faking it is not the right option, so what is?
I truly do not know, but here are a few of my thoughts about it.
The psalms may give us some help with this. Many of the psalms are hymns of praise and thanksgiving. But many are songs that bare the deepest emotions of the heart--not just praise and thankfulness, but dire need, fear, grief, distress, and the questioning of why God is not helping. But even in these there is almost always a kernel of recognition of the greatness, power, and care of the Lord.
Perhaps being thankful in all things is simply to recognize that which is good in our lives, despite our current circumstances, and to acknowledge that God is and always will be. This quality of acceptance doesn't require faking emotions. It does lift our minds and hearts at least a little way out of ourselves and our troubles.
I know that I do not like to be instructed to be thankful for my pain, sorrow, or other distress. There may come a time when I can see some good come out of those bad things. There also may not come such a time in this life. Suffering is real. To try to negate it by saying we must be thankful even for the suffering does not ring true to me. It may be possible in hindsight, but not while it is happening. Unlike the Apostle Paul, I don't glory in suffering!
Does this make me a lesser Christian? I don't know. I do know that I should be honest with God. He can take it. And, yes, the Psalms prove that point again and again.
Now, please don't think I wrote this because I am suffering something terrible right now. I am not. I am actually feeling very blessed in many, many ways.
No, this came out of thinking how hard it is for those who are suffering today to feel like celebrating a day of thankfulness when they are so full of pain and distress.
I don't want to preach at them to be grateful at this moment.
Perhaps the wisest word I could say about this is simply to refer to the Psalms--you will find there an expression of just about everything you may be experiencing, from joy to repentance to physical pain to grief to questioning God with your "whys". And you may be reassured that it is all right to feel these things. God will not reject you for it.