“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me;” Psalm 50:23
“I never have enough money for the things I want.” Angie slumped down into her chair with a huff. Her friends turned slightly in their seats, politely acknowledging that they had heard, but no one offered a response, because…well…what do you say? Angie continued, “I’m tired of being stuck at home, but my car needs to be fixed again, and I never have any money to get out and do something just for fun once in a while.” Someone slurped the remainder of their root-beer float loudly through their straw, with a sideways glance. “And I’m sick of my job, and I wish I could just do something that’s more…interesting.” Silence. Someone coughed, and one of Angie’s friends offered a low, “Mmmmhmm,” in half-hearted support.
We all know how it goes. And perhaps you have been the complaining “Angie” in your own circles of friends. It’s easy to do! It is so easy to slip into complaining – especially when you allow yourself to have a mindset where you feel like you deserve certain things – things like comfort, security, money, time, rest, love, etc. I have been this way many times. The more I feel “deserving” of something, the more grumpy and complaining I am when I don’t get it. But the truth is, if we want to serve the Lord and surrender our WHOLE lives to Him, that means that we must actually surrender our WHOLE lives to Him. What a crazy concept. When we say we want to do whatever He wants us to, that doesn’t just mean, “As long as it’s fun and exciting”. It also means staying up an hour or two longer than you had planned, in order to pray for someone. It means not always having the “normal” comforts of life that have become just a way of life for us North Americans; things people will think you are weird or under-privileged for not having, but in reality, most of such things weren’t even invented until recent years! It means not chasing after guys…and maybe being content for a long time without one, in order to serve God however He calls you. It may mean not having free time to do whatever you want; it may mean not even having just a few minutes to relax or have peace and quiet. It may mean not having money; not being able to get all the super awesome hair products that sparkle on the shelf, or the fab new fashions that are oh-so cute.
When we decide that we want to follow Jesus, we lay all of our “deserving” aside, and instead begin to live our lives, not for ourselves any more, but for the Lord and for others! We are to be like Jesus, and take on the form of a servant – doing all the dirty work, and not looking for comfort, or relaxation, or any kind of reward. (“…but [Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…” Philippians 2:7a)
When we complain, it is not only just plain annoying for everyone around us to listen to, but it is also drawing all attention to ourselves and is the same as saying, “I deserve better”. It is self-seeking, for, all we really want is people to pity us…but often we don’t even realize that, while we are looking for pity to boost our own egos, we are, at the same time, telling the watching world that God isn’t actually enough for us, and that He is stingy and hard-hearted. We are discrediting God while we seek our own fulfillment – what a tragedy! (And I am certainly preaching to myself here, because I have done this far, far too often.)
However, when we choose thankfulness instead of complaining, it flips the whole situation around, from the spotlight being on us, to it being where it rightfully belongs: on Jesus. It might be difficult to choose thankfulness when you are actually having a really rough day – but that’s why it is called a “sacrifice”. We must do it even when we’d rather complain or curl up in a ball and cry. You will find that the more you catch yourself as you are about to complain, and instead, thank the Lord for His goodness, the more natural it will become! Let your thankfulness flow as freely and as publicly as you have proclaimed your woes. It will direct all the glory and attention to the Lord, and you will find your own attitude beginning to change. Instead of a continual cloud of gloom hanging over your head, your clouds will roll back, and you will begin to see into the very joys of heaven itself!