The most common complaints banging around in our minds often go unacknowledged as complaints, and worse yet, when expressed, are still not considered complaints. Below is a list of the seven most common areas, or general categories, of complaints, which can make anyone a chronically negative person.
Slowly read the list and ponder your own life. Do you see yourself as susceptible to any of these basic complaints?
1. My circumstance is hard. I feel alone and view my difficulty as harder than what others face.
2. I don't have anyone I can really trust or who really supports me, helps me, or even understands me.
3. Things are just going wrong for me right now; nothing seems to be working out today the way I had planned it.
4. The other person, the one over there, is a far worse person than I and has done far worse things, and yet they are being treated far more generously.
5. This event or circumstance is not turning out like I planned it and is not what I anticipated, thus it is mostly a failure or a waste of time.
6. Tomorrow will likely not get any better than today.
7. Did you hear about so and so?
Because God is working His grace and love in us, we are in turn to be working His grace and love into the outside of our lives (Philippians 2:12-13). One of the ways we let His life get to the outside of our hearts is by doing "EVERYTHING without grumbling ..." (Philippians 2:14 [emphasis mine]). Not only are we to wait patiently for God to fulfill His promises (James 5:7-8), but we are also to wait without complaining about our brothers and sisters, realizing that a complainer will be judged (James 5:9). Jesus essentially told His disciples that complaining was evidence of the heart’s not forgiving, but instead holding onto offense (John 6:61).
A Messy World
We are by nature insecure and fear harm perpetually, so we are easy targets for a complaining spirit. It is a disorder that runs deep within our operating system. This is the very same operating system Jesus came to destroy, so He could build a new one to replace it. Part of the old system is our addiction to complain, to see the whole world as not good enough.
One time a married couple sat in my office, the wife expressing major difficulty with her husband. As it turned out, the husband was a habitual clutter-creator. He left things out, did not pick up after himself— he was serially messy. His wife told me she could live with his clutter but was finding it difficult to live with his mouth. For some reason, the husband basically made a mess of their home and then complained about how messy it was all the time.
There is our basic problem: we have messed up our home. God has come in behind us and is sacrificially seeking to keep things as clean as possible. Yet we complain about how messy or how bad our world is.
Instead of being amazed at how well our world works, given our own personal assault on it, we act as though our self-centered, lust-driven actions have had no negative influence on the world around us.
"I see you as worse than I. I see myself as not really that bad. I see what I do as mostly good. I see what you do as bad and not being related to anything I have done or am doing. I do not see the world, when it seems to go wrong for me, as being a result of anything wrong I have done. Further, I do not see the world as being amazingly held together and thriving with life because of what Jesus has and is doing."
I Can't Be Happy Until ...
When my view of life is negative, my heart tells me:
a) I will be happy when something happens.
b) I will be happy if I get ...
c) I will be happy if I do not see so and so.
d) I will be happy if this no longer is happening to me.
e) I will be happy if everyone sees how really big a mess this is.
f) I will be happy if I can just deal with this later.
g) I will be happy if I could just be treated like …
To say it another way, the complainer is always looking to the future for something else to happen to be happy. S/he needs something more materially to be cheery; must stay away from someone who has hurt her to be in a good mood; calls for some circumstance to come to an end to grin again; demands the right to define the size of a problem to be satisfied; commands a pressing problem to be hidden to feel untroubled; and requires others’ esteem of him to equal the Joneses to be content.
Complaining is cancerous to the spirit; it kills faith in God, repels relationships, and corrupts life.
A Pinch of Thanks
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, does just the opposite. A pinch of thanks sends complaints running. It is like turning a light on in a dark room. Grumbling scampers off at the first whiff of thanks.
One More Day
Sorry, but unless we spend another day on thanksgiving, we may not grasp its importance and the vastness of its power.
Thanksgiving keeps us in our place and exalts God to His rightful place in our lives.
Thanksgiving magnifies the things God has done for us and focuses our hearts on what will remain, those things He has done.
Thanksgiving reminds us that God is the Giver of all things, that we are not alone, and God will supply and sustain through a life living in thankful trust.
Thanksgiving refreshes and renews our hearts, cleansing us from negativity and opening our hearts to future blessings and gifts.
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His faithful love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.
4 He alone does great wonders. His faithful love endures forever.
5 He made the heavens skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
6 He spread the land on the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
7 He made the great lights: His faithful love endures forever.
8 The sun to rule by day, His faithful love endures forever.
9 The moon and stars to rule by night. His faithful love endures forever.
10 He struck the firstborn of the Egyptians; His faithful love endures forever.
11 And brought Israel out from among them; His faithful love endures forever.
12 With a strong hand and outstretched arm; His faithful love endures forever.
13 He divided the Red Sea; His faithful love endures forever.
14 And led Israel through; His faithful love endures forever.
15 But hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
16 He led His people in the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.
17 He struck down great kings; His faithful love endures forever.
18 And slaughtered famous kings—His faithful love endures forever.
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, His faithful love endures forever.
20 And Og king of Bashan—His faithful love endures forever.
21 And gave their land as an inheritance, His faithful love endures forever.
22 An inheritance to Israel his servant. His faithful love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our humiliation, His faithful love endures forever.
24 And rescued us from our foes. His faithful love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature. His faithful love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven! His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136 CSB
Did you notice a recurring phrase in the Psalm above? The four-word phrase, "His love endures forever," is used over forty times in Scripture. Let me quickly unpack what this little phrase means:
Yahweh's love for you will not change based on your behavior or response to it. His love is stronger than your acceptance of it and will even endure if you reject it.
Yahweh's love will remain mighty and enduring in the face of adversity, trouble, reversal, failure, and tragedy. His love is stronger than any force that could meet it for war or seek to assault it.
Yahweh's love holds on to you no matter what is seeking to drag you down or away from Him. There is no hardship so hard, no sin so corrupt, no failure so bottomless that God's love cannot endure it all to pick up our lives and restore them in Christ.
So, don't you think He just might deserve thanks from the bottom of our hearts?
Most of our grumbling is aimed at either circumstances or people. Either a circumstance has disappointed or a person has disappointed or a person has created a disappointing circumstance. In all the disappointment, Yahweh's love endures. We might not have something but we do have Someone. Evil searches for what is wrong with something or someone. Christ searches for God in the matter. He doesn't call evil good, but He does search to find how He can turn the evil into good (Genesis 45:7-8; 50:20-21; Romans 8:28; Acts 2:23; 3:13-15).
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 NLT
It is God's will that we would be full of joy, praying and thankful in all circumstances.
Today's directive considers the five people you are the most thankful for. Think about both the people in your life who are positive, as well as the people God has used in a positive way.
Over the next seventeen days, we encourage you to send a handwritten letter to five people, expressing thankfulness in your heart for the impact God has had on you through their lives.
We emphasize handwritten so every word will be thoughtful, well-considered, and personal. Writing by hand requires you to really think through what you want to write beforehand. Additionally, when you put pen to paper, as you form each letter, you are forming a more personal connection to what you write; thus the reader does not just receive your words, but you through your words.
In writing these letters, you will be fasting any negative thinking you have toward others and drinking, "His love endures forever," into the core of your being.
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments" page, write down the date. Next, write out your commitment to pen five “Thank You” letters over the next seventeen days. Be sure to mix in people who have been a positive experience with those whom God has used in a positive way.
Your commitment might read something like this: “Jesus, by Your grace I commit to writing to “name,” “name,” “name,” “name,” and “name," over the next seventeen days. With Your help, the first letter I will write on “date," the second on “date," the third on “date," the fourth on “date,” and the fifth on “date.”
Prayer is essential, so don't forget or undervalue prayer as you request God's help in writing these letters.
Go now to the "Daily Journal" and write the date at the top of the page. Of course, you will begin by writing down three things you are thankful for today, and then request God's help in writing to the five people on your list. You might also want to pray that your letters will be honoring and of great encouragement to their recipients.
Don't underestimate the power of writing these letters. These five letters could change your spirit as four words form the core of your life, "His love endures forever."