“How many people are praying for what you have now?”
Have you heard that saying? Every time I hear it I have a twinge of conviction. I don’t fully appreciate God’s blessings in my life. In fact, sometimes I complain about them!
I’ve got two simple exercises that can help us stop complaining, get to the root of our anger and start being grateful.
Probably half of my hair has fallen out over the last two months and I think we’ve found the culprit — bad water. What this means is that we will have to spend almost our entire our savings for new filtration for our well system.
A few weeks ago I might have been very frustrated by this, maybe even gotten mad. But God is working diligently to retrain my thinking patterns, honing in on perspective.
Here’s an example.
Self-focused: We have to spend all our savings on a new water system.
God-focused: We get to have clean water! Good thing we found out and that God has provided savings to cover it.
Don’t disregard all the things God has done for you and narrow-mindedly focus on the one challenging thing. That might be the one thing you need to refine your character, strengthen your relationship with God or help someone else. When things don’t go as planned it’s easy to get in a huff and let anger or anxiety take charge. It’s better to focus on God and ask him to teach and guide you.
The older I get and the closer I grow to God, the more I am aware that every detail is controlled by him. Don’t fall into the misconception that following Jesus earns you a pain-free life of comfort. That’s not what Jesus taught.
In fact, the Bible says God disciplines those he loves.
“Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you do not experience discipline like everyone else, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Furthermore, we have all had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them. Should we not much more submit to the Father of our spirits and live?” Hebrews 12:7-9
A sermon was being preached on this verse a few weeks ago at our church, and our pastor pointed out that discipline in English has a different connotation than the word used in Greek. In Greek it means to train up.
God is molding and refining us through our circumstances and suffering to be more like his son. And just like an athlete, this takes discipline and training.
When I first heard that comfort can be an idol my eyes were opened. I most definitely have a habit of making comfort an idol, even to the point of wondering when things aren’t going my way if it’s because of sin in my life. As if when I please God, he will make my life easy. That’s all kinds of twisted thinking and can lead to a works-based faith, among other dangerous misconceptions. Sin does have natural consequences, but trials do not necessarily signify a sinful life.
Job comes to mind. In the book of Job, we have the curtain pulled back and get a glimpse into the spiritual world. God allowed the accuser to strip everything away from Job (children, wealth, health, friends) even though he was a faithful man who God himself called “blameless” and “upright.” He was not being punished. (Watch: 11-minute video by Bible Project)
I am also reminded of the blind child the disciples asked Jesus about.
“And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. — John 9:2-3
God is much more concerned with our hearts than our comfort.
It is unlikely that we will know all the reasons we experience discomfort in this life. Take a look at what God told Job when Job accused him of being unjust (Job 38:1-7):
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
If you are ever in need of reverence for our Holy God, read Job! He goes on for several chapters in this manner. His thoughts are above our thoughts and his ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
So what if when inconveniences and challenging situations arise we asked God what he has to teach us and ask him to help us see it through his perspective? What if we focused on how we could grow and become more like Jesus through trials, instead of asking “why me?” and getting mad at God?
“I get to” instead of “I have to”
What does it look like to have the posture of a trainable heart? How can we look at our circumstances with God’s perspective and a grateful heart?
Switch it around! Change your perspective.
Exchanging “I have to” for “I get to” is a mind-altering exercise. Here are some simple examples:
Have to: I have to have surgery Wednesday.
Get to: I get to have surgery on Wednesday. I’m grateful I have access to doctors and medical care. I’m grateful there is something they can do to fix this!
Have to: My husband has to travel this week, and I have to stay home alone with the kids.
Get to: My husband gets to travel this week because he has a job that provides our family with an income.
Have to: I have to drive my kids all over the place this week.
Get to: I get to drive my kids to all their practices and appointments. I’m grateful for these children I prayed for. I’m grateful they are healthy enough to participate. I’m grateful to have a car, money to buy gas and pay for sports equipment.
Have to: I have to help a friend during my only day off this week.
Get to: I get to show love to my friend this week through an act of service. I get to show Jesus love by loving those around me with a sacrificial love. He sees me and that’s all I need.
Attitude determines how you experience joy.
Attitude changes how you see the world.
Attitude will determine your quality of life.
Complaining is serious
We sometimes look at complaining as bonding or more acceptable than other sins, but God takes complaining very seriously.
I did a study of the book of Numbers and contentment by Melissa Spoelstra recently (I highly recommend it, even if you don’t watch the video).
“Complaining is like a rocking chair: It gives us something to do, but doesn’t get us anywhere,” Melissa states in her book. “Only by shifting our focus from daily struggles to God’s goodness and sovereign plan will we learn contentment through our trials.”
We studied the Israelites’ story after leaving Egypt. God‘s chosen people witnessed firsthand God bring the 10 plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the 10 commandments given on Mount Sinai, manna (food of angels) falling from the sky, but still complained and disbelieved.
They complained about the wilderness and said they wanted to go back to Egypt. They complained about hunger and God gave them manna to eat. They were impatient when Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and built a golden calf to worship. The complained about their misfortunes and God burned the edges of their camp. They complained they wanted meat and God gave them so much quail they were sick. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ siblings, complained about Moses and God struck Miriam with leprosy. The people complained about giants in the promise land and refused to enter it as God said, so they were forced to wander in the dessert another 40 years until their deaths.
The difference between Moses and people struck down by fire and his sister overcome with leprosy, is that Moses went to God with his complaints. And oh did he complain too! (Read Numbers 11:10-15.)
Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers?” — Numbers 11:11-12
He even asks to be struck dead! And what did God do with Moses after he complained? He helped him! He assigned 70 elders to help him lead the people!
Here is the point I’m underlining: God takes complaining seriously. If you’re going to complain to someone, complain to him.
As Melissa points out: “These things were written to warn us. Complaining may seem like a small vice when compared to lying, adultery, or murder; but God doesn’t want us to compare. He says grumbling against him is a serious issue.”
What do you think you are you entitled to?
A new question popped into my mind shortly after I was shaken by the “I get to” thought process. And this one was even more profound and even more shocking.
It was in a moment of anger. I felt “What do you think you’re entitled to?” wash over me.
What are we entitled to? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
Man has nothing more than the air in his nostrils, anything beyond that fleeting breath is a gift from God. Everything is from him — food, water, clothing, skills, the ability to comprehend, see, hear, even breathe.
Read what God said to Moses when Moses questioned him on speaking in front of Pharaoh:
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” — Exodus 4:10-12
If we fully appreciated everything God has done for us, I don’t think we would dare get angry about trials, least of all a cashier taking too long or someone driving too slow.
CHALLENGE: The next time you find your temper flaring at home, work or in public, ask yourself: What do I think I’m entitled to right now?
If you dare answer it, the answer might shock you!
“You say, ‘… if I had a little more I should be very well satisfied.’ You make a mistake: if you are not content with what you have you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” — Charles Spurgeon
This is the beautiful part: Once you start seeing all the gifts God has given you … once you start building a grateful heart … once you start to see him in everything … His love pours out of you onto others.
The closer you move toward the Lord, the more content you become.
- Focus on what God has done for you, not what he hasn’t.
- Following Jesus doesn’t grant you a life of comfort.
- Trials in your life refine and strengthen your character.
- You can have a more joyful life if you have Godly perspective.
- God takes complaining seriously.
- You are not entitled to anything. Everything is a gift from God.
- He is enough.
The secret to contentment is to stop complaining, thank God for every single detail he has taken care of in your life, and bless others with what you have been blessed with.
Tell me one amazing thing God has done for you in the comments, below! Even give me an “I have to vs. I get to” scenario you’re facing!