This week, I have not been able to ignore the idea of complaining. I have grown up in an extremely wealthy area, and many of the trivial complaints I hear (or are sometimes guilty of saying) could be labeled as “first world problems.”
I don’t want to come across as judgmental (as I am guilty myself), but if we put our complaints in perspective, I think we would all be much more thankful. We live in an age where every need and desire is at our fingertips. In a society where everything is becoming faster and more improved, our patience and appreciation are dwindling.
Let’s start at the root of the problem. Thanklessness reveals the condition of our hearts. Steven Lee describes grumbling and whining as “not ultimately the heart’s responses to circumstances, but to God.” Are not all the things of this life from God? For, “there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
If you read Exodus, you will be infuriated by Israel’s constant complaining even after God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. We’re talking about whining after God just parted the Red Sea to save them. It will make you angry and wonder if they were completely blind to all God had done and promised to do for them.
Yet, here we are complaining about the most frivolous things. God has done a miracle by softening our hearts and continually orchestrating a a divine plan for our lives, but we turn and complain about the minute tasks we have to do. We need to wake up– we have Israel’s same blindness.
Lee goes on to describe how similar we really are as we say to God: “I know you’ve forgiven all my sins at the cross, rescued me from eternal conscious torment, and given me everlasting joy in your presence, but all we have for dinner is Ramen or Cheerios.” We are continually holding a magnifying glass to our present problems and failing to look at the whole page’s miracle story of salvation.
Ultimately, we are not thankless because of our circumstances. We are just losing our heart of gratitude for God. Jon Bloom shows God’s frequent reminders for us to be thankful “just like a parent,” and God helps His children “to give thanks to him to help us experience the profoundly healthy and deep joy of seeing grace and feeling grateful.”
In the Psalms, praise and thanks are continually given to God:
- Psalm 7:17 : “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.”
- Psalm 9:1 : “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
- Psalm 107:1 : “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”
In his letters, Paul stresses the heart-revealing nature and importance of thankfulness:
- Romans 1:21 : “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
- Ephesians 5:4 : “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
- Philippians 4:6 : “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
- Colossians 3:17 : “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.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 : “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
God gives us constant reminders to be thankful. Yes, God wants you to let Him know the yearning and struggles in your heart, but it is still “with thanksgiving” that you “let your requests be made known to God.”
Jesus also instructed his disciples to give praise to the Lord before we begin making our requests known to God. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Before we tell God our struggles or desires, we are to put our earthly, temporal situations in perspective with the sacred, powerful name of the Lord. By placing praise before plea, every prayer becomes a reminder of God’s goodness through every circumstance.
Although struggles may seem pressing, never let your heart forget what God has already done for you. Lest we be like the Israelites, who forgot the miracles displayed in front of them as soon as any hardship came their way.
So, thank you, Lord for the amazing wonders you have displayed. Let the gift of your Son, his sacrifice and defeat of sin and death be something we are forever thankful for. It is because of our faith and joy in him that we have the promise of everlasting joy in your presence. Never let our hearts be so separated from you as to forget the love you have displayed, and allow us to never grow weary of giving thanks to you for all of our days.