Your Joy Center

Your Joy Center - Good CounselGive Thanks in all Circumstances

November is the month of Thanksgiving, a holiday enjoyed by our entire nation. Many of us will say what we are thankful for as we sit around the dinner table. But, what if I don’t feel very thankful right now, then what?

This week we enter into the official holiday season. Ready or not, it’s upon us.

For those who are struggling, especially in relationships, this time of year can feel very intense. When things are going well, life can feel magical. When things are going poorly, life can feel miserable.

The truth is – most of life is lived somewhere between magical and miserable. I propose that in each day we can find some magic and some misery, depending on where we look.

But even this may miss the point.

If we look again at the command to “give thanks in all circumstances” from 1 Thessalonians, we read, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Great, so now on top of feeling gratitude, I have to feel joy and pray a lot? This isn’t getting any easier!

It’s true, it’s not getting easier. However, what we really want isn’t for life to be easier, is it? What we really want is for life to be deeply meaningful. We want to live lives that matter. I believe the three statements to be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks point us in that direction.

Most of us would gladly embrace the command to be joyful if we could. But how can we be joyful when finances are tight, or a relationship is teetering on destruction, or our health is in decline? Joy is not the kind of experience that I can muster up by concentrating harder or flipping some switch in my brain that ignites my “joy center.” Some people resort to chemical use of some kind to stimulate a joyful experience.

What if God, who knows how He designed us, is telling us that there is a chemical response to finding our joy? It doesn’t come in a bottle, or a needle, and it’s not found on a website. What if He has placed the chemical in our brains, and is giving us the key to release it to stimulate our joy?

I find it interesting that immediately after we are told to be joyful we are given two actions to take; pray and give thanks.

Today let’s focus on giving thanks. So, what if I don’t feel very thankful right now?” We are not told to feel thankful, we are told to give thanks. We often feel thankful for obvious blessings – family, jobs, and health. But what would it mean to give thanks instead?

I want you to consider an experiment. For the next three weeks, until Thanksgiving day, pick one thing that is not an obvious blessing. Choose something that seems to be making life more difficult. Give God thanks for that one thing every single day.

See what happens to your “joy center” over the next three weeks.

Several years ago at Thanksgiving, we passed around a bowl filled with notes that each had a random word like birds, traffic, in-laws, or music written on it. Our guests each picked one and committed to give thanks for that item every day until Thanksgiving.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving we had nasty weather. It was very cold, windy and rainy. I saw a friend at church directing traffic with a huge smile on his face as he pointed to open spaces. After service he took me aside and pulled a note out of his pocket. It said, WEATHER. All we could do was laugh heartily together!

Take the challenge! Give God thanks every day for one thing you normally wouldn’t be thankful for. Let me know what impact it has on your “joy center.”

Happy Thanksgiving!


Chuck has worked with couples and men for over 20 years, focusing on basic communication issues and crisis intervention and restoration. Read more >
He is the author of Marriage Recall, a compilation of helpful topics for couples. Read more at

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