So my wife and I recently adopted a child and he is a full-fledged two year old! He can make your day and break your day. Why, because he’s a two year old. As I consider what’s unique about him, I strangely see myself as a person that resists growing beyond my own “two-year-old” tendencies. In America especially, we have mastered the art of caring about no one else but “ME”.
About 160 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and scholar, visited America from France and wrote this as he observed Americans:
“Each citizen is habitually engaged in the contemplation of a very puny object, namely himself.”
And because this is true, one of the direct results is that we have mastered the art and science of being professional complainers. We complain about everything: traffic, the weather, the speed of our internet, how long it takes for a restaurant to bring us food, and just about everything related to airports and the entire flying process! Two trips to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the last three months has given me some perspective, but I still feel my inner “complainer” detest when my agenda and my preferences not being accomplished.
In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul says something astounding:
12 …Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Then he tells us what we are to do…
Ready for it???
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 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.
Paul is saying – God is working in you (that’s the Good News!) to DO what pleases Him… which is EVERYTHING… without complaining and arguing.
Our complaints reveal our deep fixation upon our own little kingdoms.
Paul Tripp, commenting on Philippians 2 says this:
“Grumbling says, ‘I deserve better!’ When we grumble, we insert ourselves into the center of our universe and make life all about us. When we don’t get what we want, immediately when we want it and precisely how we want it, we grumble. It’s the audible representation of a heart captured by the claustrophobic kingdom of self.”
You see – here is the bottom line: Complaining for most of us takes no effort at all. Just get in your car, drive for five minutes, and you can easily find dozens of things to complain about. But, PRACTICING GRATITUDE takes… PRACTICE and effort! There are no shortage of ways to begin – simply Google “Practicing Gratitude” and you will find a list of 10,000 ideas. But what are you going to do?
a) Gratitude Journal: Take 5 minutes at the beginning or end of day and write down what you’re truly grateful for. Turn off all technology and noise, and write down what you are thankful to God for in that moment.
b) Write Thank You Notes: Go buy 365 Thank You Cards and write one a day. You don’t have to write a novel, but just express gratitude to others!
c) Gratitude Inventory. Create a list of 50 things that you’re grateful for. Divide your list into different categories — people (your relationships), opportunities you’ve been given, etc… Keep that list in a place where you look at it regularly.
My hope for you and for me is that we would shine like bright stars – not because we do some heroic feat, but because we are humble, we are deeply thankful, and we’re putting gratitude into practice on a daily basis.
THANKS (literally) for reading this! I hope it’s helpful.