Every day of your life, you can find reasons to complain.
After all, you exist in a broken world, and life doesn’t operate the way it was meant to. Family and friends will wrong you, good health will elude you, authority will exploit you, and so on and so forth.
I’m not giving you a license to complain; not at all. I’m just saying that it’s not very difficult for people to come up with a laundry list of reasons to complain. Simply listen to the conversations around you; there’s a lot of complaining going on!
At the same time, though, we can easily find a multitude of reasons to be thankful. God’s common grace has provided us with an abundance of physical blessings. Around this time of the calendar year, at least in America, our culture is reminding us to find those blessings and to give thanks.
What does the Thanksgiving season reveal about the human heart? Two things, I think.
First, it reveals that the human heart is hardwired for gratitude; something inside our soul tells us that we should be a thankful people. But second, it shows that, by and large, we’re not a thankful people. We relegate our thankfulness to only a few days each year, and most other days, we’re grumbling, moaning and complaining.
So today, I want to write about the human heart, complaint and thankfulness. Then, at the end of this post, I’ll give you a 13-question assessment to measure your own heart. My hope is that you would use it as resource for your family and friends before or on Thanksgiving.
THE EYES OF THE HEART
I’m deeply persuaded that the root of our complaint, or the root of our gratitude, is the result of the way we view ourselves in our hearts.
Here’s a breakdown of what happens.
The Entitled, Complaining Person
If I foolishly assume that I’m a good person, then I’ll arrogantly assume that I’m a deserving person. I’ll place myself in the center of my world and live with an “I deserve” attitude. Because I live with such a sense of entitlement, I’ll develop an inflated and unrealistic sense of personal need.
Because I have an inflated and unrealistic sense of personal need, I’ll expect the situations, locations and relationships of everyday life to focus their energy on serving what I have named as personal needs. But in my foolishness and arrogance, I have forgotten that this universe wasn’t created to serve me. I’m not the center of its attention, despite what I wish to think.
Inevitably, those people and places will fail to cater to, or even recognize, what I have named as personal needs. So, since I didn’t get what I thought I deserve, I have a multitude of reasons to complain and grumble.
Where does this grumbling find its roots? In my heart, because I inaccurately viewed myself with foolishness and arrogance.
The Humble, Thankful Person
What if, instead of assuming that I’m a good and deserving person, I view myself accurately through the lens of Scripture?
The Bible tells me that everything in this universe was designed by, and for the glory of, God. That means this world, with all its created pleasures, was not meant to celebrate me. No, the created glories of this world are designed to be a finger celebrating the Creator. In other words, I’m not the center of this narrative.
On top of that, the Gospel tells me that I’m not a good person; in fact, I’m a wicked person, and the only thing I deserve in this life is God’s wrath. So, if I remember that, in an act of outrageous grace, God turned his face of mercy and kindness toward me, and that every good thing in my life is an undeserved blessing, feelings of humility and thankfulness (rather than entitlement and disappointment) will fill my heart.
Instead of trying to exploit situations, locations and relationships in my life to serve me, I will now approach people and places with a servant’s heart. I will be so overwhelmed with gratitude at the sacrifice of Christ that my life will now be defined by similar sacrifice.
Now that’s a better way!
THE BOTTOM LINE
I guess what I’m trying to ask is this: How accurately are you viewing yourself?
Do you think you’re a good and deserving person who has been unjustly forgotten? Or do you, like John Newton, view yourself as a wretch saved by amazing grace? It makes a world of difference.
Here’s what I want you to do, either before or on Thanksgiving. Below are 13 questions for your personal assessment, to examine your heart. Don’t rush through these, just to “check the box” for religious activity. Be honest and intentional about exposing your heart.
When we’re honest with ourselves, with God and with others, we’ll discover that we’re more arrogant, demanding and entitled than we think. But don’t be afraid of what may be revealed by honestly answering these questions
God has already forgiven us entirely on the Cross, and when we cry out for help, he supplies abundant and life-transforming grace to deliver us from a lifestyle of complaining and invite us into a lifestyle of gratitude.
1. Would the people who live nearest to you characterize you as a complaining person or a thankful person?
2. When was the last time you sat down to literally count your blessings?
3. When was the last time you spent time grumbling, moaning and complaining about life?
4. When you look at your world, are you pessimistic about everything that’s going wrong?
5. When you look at your world, do find yourself celebrating God’s common grace?
6. Do you view yourself as one who has been constantly short-changed and neglected?
7. Do you view yourself as one who has been unfairly showered with blessings?
8. How often do you fill in the blank with grumbling, like “If only I had _____” or “I wish _______ was different”?
9. How often do you fill in the blank with gratitude, like “I can’t believe God has given me _________”?
10. In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to continue their grumbling?
11. In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to find reasons to give thanks to God?
12. In your relationships, do you find yourself frequently tearing others down?
13. In your relationships, do you find yourself frequently building others up?