“Why do you have to continuously complain?” my husband uttered the question that cut right to the heart of the matter. I repeatedly complained about his bad breath when he would kiss me when coming home from work.
He was right. Earlier that day I decided to be more grateful and somehow I missed that complaining is the opposite of gratitude. Even complaining over something as small as bad breath.
To learn how to be grateful for the big things we have to be grateful for the small things. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts is an excellent example of this. Over the course of one year, I wrote out one thousand things I am thankful for.
I’m rereading her book now, and I realized I was only thankful when things were going well. I would write things that already happened. I would write events I would be thankful for in the future. I wasn’t looking for gratitude in the present or throughout the rest of my day. I wrote five things I was thankful for, closed the journal and went on grumbling.
I approached my gratitude list as a part of my daily to-do list. What is wrong with that picture? I fashioned gratitude to fit in my quiet time, when gratitude is supposed to mold and carry me through my day.
Grumbling creates more than just an unhappy heart. The Lord lays out an example for us in Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelites began complaining about eating manna in the desert and “the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Grumbling over God’s provision can be as dangerous as being bit by a venomous snake.
The Israelites realized their ungratefulness, repented, and begged Moses to pray for the Lord to take away the snakes. God provided a way for the Israelites to be saved. “So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (verse 9)
Jesus refers back to this story in John 3:14. My bible commentary states that “Through the [bronze] snake and through Jesus, God provided a way of escape that required only faith from the people.”
Gratitude and faith are intertwined. Faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Gratitude “ushers into the other side of prayer, into the heart of the God-love…”
Gratitude is our way of escape. Gratitude is a way to grow. Gratitude is seeing past the discomfort and disillusionment to see the good.
I’m learning to welcome hello kisses. Bad breath and all.
Join me for the next couple of days as we practice gratitude not just on Thanksgiving but in each present moment.
How can we put out gratitude in action?
Here’s one way. We can start by shifting our mindsets.
“Ugh! I have so many dishes to do.”
We can think:
“I am thankful that I have indoor plumbing and the ability to cook for my family.”
Maybe you’re a list writer. Instead of writing long to-do lists as the holidays approach, we can write lists of things we are thankful for.
And of course, prayer!
Thank you that you came to die for my sin. Thank you for dying for my grumbling and ungratefulness which your word shows can be a dangerous sin. I repent of all ungratefulness, and ask you to guide me in gratitude. Thank you for showing us to give thanks before we break bread with those around us. Thank you for helping me learn to live a life of thanks.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen