The Grip of Ungratefulness: How Thanksgiving Can Change Everything

Jennifer Waddle

iBelieve Contributor
Updated Nov 17, 2023
The Grip of Ungratefulness: How Thanksgiving Can Change Everything

Yes, there will be moments of ungratefulness, as is our human condition, but there are many more opportunities for thanksgiving.

When nothing seems to be going right, and every day is a challenge, it can be easy to let ungratefulness have an unhealthy grip on our lives. Personally, I’ve found myself in seasons where I’ve spent far too much time complaining, grumbling, and going through the day with a doom-and-gloom attitude. 

If you feel like the grip of ungratefulness has a hold on you, please let me assure you there is a better way. Cultivating a daily practice of thanksgiving - even when you’d rather complain - is absolutely transformative. 

Here are four biblical ways a heart of thanksgiving can change everything:

Thanksgiving Lifts Our Heads

It was David who said, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (ESV). His words indicate that even in the lowest of times, God is able to lift our gaze towards Him and away from our problems.

You see, ungratefulness is like a blinder that keeps our focus on the circumstantial. It prevents us from seeing anything other than what is right in front of us. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, opens our eyes to the eternal by expanding our vision of what God has done.

So, let’s remove the blinders today and repeat David’s words of faith. Truly, God is a shield around us and the One who lifts our heads. Spend time in quiet prayer, allowing gratefulness to be the center of your words and thoughts. As you do this, feel the gentleness of the Holy Spirit lifting your gaze to see the beautiful blessings of God. 

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, thank You for being the Lifter of our heads. When our eyes are stuck on the things of this earth, please turn our eyes toward You and remind us of all that You’ve done. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.

For more encouragement, here is a devotion titled The Lifter of My Head.

Thanksgiving Stops the Cycle

Have you ever felt like your mind is on a hamster wheel, spinning with negative, ungrateful thoughts? It can be difficult to break free from these cycling thought patterns.

However, thanksgiving is the quickest way to step off the hamster wheel. It disrupts our habits and redirects our thoughts. Best of all, it gets our minds off of ourselves and onto worshipping the Lord. Remember, we aren’t helpless in the grip of ungratefulness because it is the Holy Spirit Who empowers us to break free.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” I love the imagery of strength that comes when I read this verse. The New King James version says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The thought of having a sound mind is comforting, isn’t it? Ungratefulness cannot reside in a mind filled with the power and love of God. So, let soundness of mind replace all ungratefulness today.

Let’s pray:

Gracious God, thank You for stopping the cycle of negative thinking. We praise You for giving us spirits of power, love, and self-discipline. Help us walk in Your strength with thankful hearts of praise. In Jesus’ holy name, amen.

Thanksgiving Resists the Enemy

We can be really hard on ourselves when it comes to ungratefulness. After all, we feel guilty for grumbling and being discontent. We see that others are walking in the joy of the Lord and wonder why it’s so difficult for us. However, it’s important to remember that we have two enemies - our flesh and the adversary. 

Not only are we battling the constant temptations of the enemy, but we are also dealing with our flesh and the physical/emotional temptations as well. Keep in mind, our human nature is contrary to the things of God. Romans 8:6 says, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” 

Our goal as Christians is to be governed by the Holy Spirit, and one way to do that is to focus on His characteristics. When we think of all that He is…love, joy, peace, etc., the grip of ungratefulness will begin to weaken.

In James 4:7-8, we read, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” There is a 3-part action plan spelled out in these verses:

1. Submit yourself to God.

2. Resist the devil.

3. Come near to God.

Submitting to God means we lay down our fleshly will and desires, including ungratefulness. By humbling ourselves before the Lord, we are resisting the pride of the enemy which causes him to flee. Then, we draw near to God through hearts of praise and thanksgiving. The grip of ungratefulness is broken when we follow this process.

Let’s pray:

Holy God, we submit ourselves to You, resisting the enemy who wants to keep us in the grip of ungratefulness. We choose to praise Your holy name in honor and thanksgiving today. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.

Here is a powerful prayer titled, A Prayer to Transform Your Mind and Life.

Thanksgiving Changes Everything

When our kids were little, we encouraged them to think of three things to be thankful for whenever they felt frustrated about something. For example, if they grumbled about having to clean their room, we pointed out the blessings of having warm beds to sleep in, plenty of clothes to wear, and fun toys to play with.

As grown-ups, this mindset can work wonders for us as well. When we identify the blessings in every situation, our entire perspective changes. 

-Our struggles in the workplace turn from drudgery to opportunity. 

-Our worries about finances turn to the abundance we have in Christ.

-Our hurting relationships are filled with hope once again.

Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” This is a key verse in helping us move from a place of discontentment to a place of gratitude. Imagine the power of speaking these words aloud every time we feel like complaining!

Yes, there will be moments of ungratefulness, as is our human condition, but there are many more opportunities for thanksgiving. Let’s resist the enemy’s temptation to remain in the grip of ungratefulness. Instead, let’s count the blessings around us, live in the abundance Jesus provides, and lift our gaze to the One who is worthy of praise. 

Let’s pray:

Almighty God, thank You for Your love and patience with us. We are so grateful that Your mercies are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Let thanksgiving be the first thoughts in our minds and the first words on our lips. We are truly thankful for what You’ve done, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Here are even more ways to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving:

10 Prayers to Say "Thank You God" with Heartfelt Gratitude

4 Ways to Practice Thanksgiving in Your Daily Routine

30 Heart-Warming Bible Verses for Thanksgiving & Gratitude

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/AaronAmat

Jennifer WaddleJennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayerand is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesnt Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.