Scripture abounds with commands for us to give thanks and offer praise to God. In fact, David, the psalmist declares that God is enthroned, or lifted even higher, by the praises of his people. But what if I don’t feel thankful? What if the circumstances of life have left me feeling so dry that praise is the farthest thing from my lips?

Psalm 100 reads like a primer on giving thanks. One of the first passages of Scripture I memorized as a child—along with Psalm 23 and The Lord’s Prayer—its words in the King James Version dripped like honey from my lips.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.

The entire psalm is an ode to praising God.

So much so that the psalmist doesn’t allow us much wiggle-room to come before God other than in a posture of thanksgiving. Of course, the psalmists also wrote lament psalms, and plenty of them. Yet even among these psalms of lament, all but two of them resolve with praise and confident assurance of what God will do because of what he has done in the past.

Reading Psalm 100 as an adult, I’ve come to realize the psalmist isn’t just offering us a gentle invitation to praise; he’s compelling us to praise.

Apparently, when we come to God, posture matters.

Is there hope for me when I don’t feel thankful?

This psalm unequivocally tells us how to present ourselves to God, yet hope for the weary pilgrim drained of praise language lies nestled in the middle verse. After two beautiful verses lauding the practice of praise, one gets the impression David was interrupted by one of his listeners. “What if I don’t feel thankful? What if I no longer perform my service to God with gladness? How can I find a joy-filled song once again?” David responds swiftly with more than just a reminder to assume a posture of praise. He offers us a remedy for returning to a spirit of thanksgiving when praise has evaporated from our lips.

Much of our lack of gratitude occurs when we determine we have more to grumble about than we have to be grateful for, and we allow our worries to eclipse our joy. Illness, un- or under-employment, perceived failure, dashed hopes and dreams, a sense of having lost control—these things all carry the potential of stealing our joy. They can make us feel weak, inadequate, and certainly, not very thankful.

The psalmist offers a remedy for this mindset in the middle verse—turn our eyes away from ourselves and back to God.

Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

It is God who made you. He fashioned you in your mother’s womb according to his perfect design. He has equipped you with everything you need for the life and work to which he has called you. You belong to God. He is your good Father and your good Shepherd, guiding and protecting you.

Loosening control to rediscover praise

When we think we are in control of our own destinies, it’s easy to become discouraged when life doesn’t turn out according to our plan. When we acknowledge that it is God who has made us and not we ourselves, we loosen our tight grip on control just a little bit. Recognizing we belong to him and he is our shepherd helps us release our carefully envisioned expectations for our lives.

Once we’ve done the work of remembering who we are in relation to God and we yield to his lordship, we’ll discover an ever-deepening intimacy with God. The words David uses to conclude this psalm describe the setting of the Temple, the place of meeting with God. First, we gain access through the gates, and then, in increasing intimacy, we are admitted into the courtyard surrounding the Temple. It is our thanksgiving that flings wide open these heavenly gates, and it’s our praise that grants us admittance into the very courtyard surrounding the holy sanctuary of God. There, in his presence, we find ourselves before the mercy seat of God, where his mercies never end.

Remembering that in all circumstances—good and bad—God truly is still working all things together for our good frees us to embrace hope.

And when we find our hope in God, thanksgiving and praise are never far behind.