Sitting down to write this morning, I feel a bit hypocritical. Last night, I outlined several reasons to be grateful and exude thanksgiving… and only a few mere hours later, I am tested. These last couple of weeks have been a bit stressful, but I kept thinking, “If I can just get through this, I will make it to the kick-off of the holiday season – celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday.” We make sure to celebrate birthday celebrations as a family priority. The day before we were to head out for my brother-in-law’s birthday day, a cold decided to come for a sickness visit.
So, Eric said, “I don’t think we should go tomorrow.”
Was he right? Of course he was – we should not go and pass around germs to unsuspecting people. But I admit to you all, I was quite bummed like an eight-year-old missing a pizza party. I felt disappointment at a heightened level (which felt silly given my age). Though no longer a child, I am convinced we all have a three-year-old inside of us who just wants what we want, and if it is socially unacceptable (or just too exhausting) to throw a tantrum on the outside, we just throw one on the inside.
Feeling my frustration swirling around my gut, I did what I often do to cope: I crawled back into bed, pulled the covers up, turned on my beloved heating pad, and scrolled through Facebook. Feeling the battle between intense disappointment and get over it already, I lay there and processed.
As I scrolled Facebook and felt sorry for myself, a Charlie Brown meme popped up which said, “What if today we were just grateful for everything?” And then I immediately remembered what I was going to write about today: gratitude.
But then a few more thoughts landed in my mind which put to rest my self-loathing (at least for a moment): “No, Heather. It is perfectly understandable that you are sad to miss out on something you looked forward to for so long. Your disappointment does not diminish the pain others feel and you are not comparing yourself to them. Take a little while. Process the upset. Then get up and be thankful for what you have.”
The points I wrote below are still true, but one element is missing: sometimes, we need to give ourselves a little time to be grateful. For many of us, emotions are not a switch we can simply flip on and off at will. We need to process our emotions and then remember all that God has done for us. While we admit our sadness, we can also remember our blessings. Admit what you are feeling and then pour the goodness of God into your mind – reminding yourself of His promises and remembering all He has done.
So, without further ado, let us talk about finding freedom from complaining!
Thankfulness is the antidote to complaining.
My memory is spotty at best, but I distinctly recall a good friend saying, “Then stop complaining!” as we left the beach some twenty-five plus years ago. This may be hard for some of you to believe, but I could be a grouchy child when I was uncomfortable. Too hot? Complain. Too bored? Complain. Too much work? Complain. Feeling the need to get out of a wet bathing suit and shower the sand off my skin? Complain. (It is so magical traveling down memory lane like this. Some days I would love a redo!)
Complaining is contagious. We cannot spew our crud into the air and think no one will be affected. Clearly, my complaining affected her as she wanted to tape my mouth shut that day. And, complaining is addictive. The more we complain, the more we want to complain. We will never have a shortage of reasons to complain. If we seek them, we will find them. And, thankfully, we will never have a shortage of reasons to show gratitude. If we seek them, we will also find them!
When we feel the need to complain, we can counter that complaint with thankfulness and cut that self-pity spree off at the pass!
Need a few reasons to be thankful?
- We reap what we sow. If we sow seeds of negativity, we will reap complaining. If we practice focusing on the negative, we will see the negative in everything. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7, ESV)
- We have more than we think we do. Those who know the Lord are so much more blessed than we will ever realize this side of Heaven. Do you ever feel foolish when you complain about minor frustrations? I do. When Eric accidentally forgets his sunglasses, we have to turn around and g go back home before commencing on a road trip. When I get settled onto the couch with my food and then remember the remote is across the room. Maybe immediately listing five reasons I am thankful every time I want to whine about life’s little inconveniences would get me in the habit of remembering the goodness of God.
- Showing gratitude lightens our hearts. Selfishly, being thankful feels good. When we feel good, we are less likely to be cranky or complain. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. What are your favorite things? When you take even sixty seconds and thank God for specific blessings, do you not feel so much better? If you have not tried it, I hope you will this week.
- Counting blessings can save lives. In college, I heard this story from a pastor who was called over to a church member’s house. His wife had locked herself in the closet and was threatening suicide. The pastor rushed over and tried talking her out of the closet. She felt there was nothing worth living for anymore. She was done. Then, the Holy Spirit brought to his mind thankfulness. He asked, “If we can think of 100 reasons you have to be thankful, will you promise not to go through with your plan?” She agreed and they went to work listing. After they worked through the obvious blessings – family, friends, home – her heart started to lighten, and they ended up laughing as she thanked God for a random sock on the floor. Soon, she emerged from the closet and embraced her husband. A life saved by the power of gratitude. There is a reason God tells us to be thankful.
- Our loving Heavenly Father tells us to be thankful.
- “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)
- “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7, ESV)
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV)
- “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17, ESV)
- Thankful people are attractive people. Have you ever been around someone who is grumpy, negative, and always full of criticism? How do you feel when after spending time with him or her? How about encouraging friends? Those who compliment, smile, and highlight the positive in situations? How do you feel after spending time with them? Put a pretty, critical woman beside an average, upbeat woman and men will find the latter woman more attractive than the other. Our mouths can take us from being rated a 10 to a 2 in minutes.
- Men like thankful women and women like thankful men. Need another excuse to ditch the complaining and count your blessings instead? Your current or future partner will appreciate it about you. In fact, it may be the single biggest factor between a long, rewarding marriage and a long, frustrating divorce. Our attitudes affect everyone around us, and our spouses are around us most. You can bring the aroma of fresh baked cookies into your home or the stench of burnt popcorn. Everyone has bad days but living in a dungeon of pessimism for years changes a person. “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 21:9, ESV)
As illustrated at the beginning, we are all subject to disappointment, frustration, and the temptation to complain. We all have reasons to complain. We all have reasons to be thankful. The question is: which will you choose?
A popular phrase on social media lately is choose your hard:
- Dieting is hard. Being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.
- Singleness is hard. Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.
I would add that complaining is easy at first, and gratitude is hard; but, living a lifestyle of negativity is actually hard and living a lifestyle of thanksgiving is actually peaceful. Choose your hard with the future in mind. Choose to think, speak, and show thanksgiving. It is the only way to find freedom from complaining.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (I Chronicles 16:34, ESV)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7, ESV)
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5, ESV)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!
Keep Breaking Free!!!
Has complaining put a damper on your life and the lives of others?