“Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.” (1 Chronicles 16:8, NLT)
The conversation with my husband started out simply enough. I was sharing some frustrations I had regarding various projects I was involved with. He patiently listened, and then I patiently waited for him to agree with everything I had said.
Instead, he replied, “Sometimes, I wonder if you really like what you do.” I was confused, so I stated, “Well, of course I do! What would make you think that?”
His tone was gentle, but his words hit hard: “The way you talk about it.”
I knew I was grateful for each opportunity. In fact, I loved what I was doing, but apparently, my words were telling a different story. My husband was hearing more negativity than positivity. He caught more complaining than contentment in my conversation. He sensed ingratitude over gratitude.
But it wasn’t just about those projects.
One day, it’s the traffic. Another day, it’s work. I grumble about my overbooked schedule. I question how there are so many dishes in my two-member household. I groan when I have to put the toilet seat down … again.
In Numbers 11, we encounter the Israelites, who were en route to the promised land. Wilderness living presented its fair share of challenges, but God had provided every step of the way.
In spite of that, the Israelites repeatedly verbalized their dissatisfaction: “… again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4-6, NIV, emphasis added).
Their cravings were clouding their memories. If you didn’t know the story, you would think Egypt was an all-inclusive resort paid for by someone else. But the Israelites’ time in Egypt had been anything but a vacation — they were slaves under the oppressive rule of an evil pharaoh. It hadn’t been that long since they had cried out to God to get them out of there. (Exodus 2:23)
I can’t be too hard on the Israelites, though. They aren’t the only ones who have chosen to complain about what they didn’t have rather than celebrate what they did have. I am just as guilty.
As I processed my husband’s observation, I realized: What if everything I complained about was taken away?
Driving in traffic means I have a car to take me places. And despite valid job frustrations, I have a healthy body that allows me to do my job. That job also provides an income to help me take care of my family. A full schedule is indicative of people in my life and a purpose I am pursuing. Household chores reveal that I have a home to take care of. Dishes in the sink mean there was food on my table. And even that raised toilet seat is a reminder of the wonderful (and insightful) husband I spent many years praying for.
Even if we don’t have everything we want, there is always at least one thing we can thank God for. Another day, another breath, the beauty of creation — the list goes on.
Of course, we all need opportunities to voice our frustrations in a healthy way. However, I don’t want my grateful heart to be overshadowed by my complaining words. The Bible instructs us accordingly: “Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done” (1 Chronicles 16:8).
In this verse, to “give thanks” means more than an internal attitude. The Hebrew phrasing implies a confession of thanks. This lines up with the rest of the commands in this verse to “proclaim” and “let the whole world know” what God has done.
In addition to that, we are expected to “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14-15, NLT).
Our witness as Christ-followers is tied to what we do (and don’t) say. I’m still a work in progress, but my prayer is that my words would reflect my heart … and that there wouldn’t be any question about how grateful I really am.
Dear Lord, I’m sorry for complaining more than counting my blessings. Even in challenging circumstances, please help my eyes to stay focused on the good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (NIV)
How can you make giving thanks a part of your daily life? What’s one thing you regularly complain about that you can start giving thanks for? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
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