It’s amazing how much of our lives are spent complaining. Whether it’s traffic, our kids, our spouse, bad cell service, our job, the weather, slow lines at the grocery store or our neighbors, we can always find something to complain about. We love to complain. Somehow we feel it’s our right, and we’re good at it.
The act of complaining comes from a deep-seated belief that the world revolves around me. It operates on my schedule, my preferences and my expectations. And when the world isn’t operating as we believe it should, we complain. The more we complain, the more this belief is cemented in our hearts.
And while it may seem harmless, there’s a huge danger with complaining.
Words are never neutral. They have incredible power. I once heard it said, “Words create worlds.” The words we speak actually affect us and those around us. Proverbs tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (18:21).” The fruit we harvest from complaining is anger and bitterness.
Angry people can be toxic and are often lonely as well. We tend to avoid them because they can only be taken in small doses. My guess is most of us don’t want that for our lives. We’d rather be someone who attracts people not someone who repels them.
The people in my life who I’ve been most attracted to are the exact opposite. They are people of contagious joy. They are people magnets. Whatever time you have with them flies by and you leave feeling filled up not drained.
And just like anger and bitterness are the results of complaining, joy is also the result of something else. Gratitude.
Complaining leads to anger and bitterness.
Gratitude leads to joy.
Since complaining can easily be our default mode, gratitude is something that has to be cultivated and practiced. And it starts with an alternative belief. If a life of complaining comes from a belief that the world revolves around me, a life of gratitude comes from the belief that my life revolves around God.
In the book of Colossians Paul describes how we have been reconciled (1:21-22), brought to fullness (2:9-10) and raised to life (3:1) – all done on our behalf through the person of Christ.
Gratitude is cultivated through receiving grace.
When we come to realize the magnitude of what Jesus has done for us we naturally see our lives differently. No longer do we live with a sense of entitlement towards what we have or think we should have, but we recognize that all of life is a gift.
Unfortunately, we tend to forget and we revert back to our complaining ways. That’s why later on in chapter 3 Paul urges the church to practice gratitude. He says,
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (v15-17, emphasis added).
Three times in three verses Paul urges the church to practice and cultivate gratitude by continually centering our lives around the person of Christ through submission to His rule, engagement with His Word and worship in His name.
In the end, the more we surrender to His grace, the greater our gratitude will grow.
So this Thanksgiving instead of just overeating, watching football and taking a nap, may you find ways to practice and cultivate gratitude for what God has done for you.
Find a way to share it with others and live into a better story.