For the past three months, God has been nagging me (no fault on God’s part is meant by the word “nagging”. It’s just that my heart tends to respond to Him as if He’s nagging me.)
Philippians 2:14-15 reads “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God, without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
I’ll be honest. Up to this point in my life, I haven’t thought of myself as a complainer. But due to some growth God has been doing in me, I’ve seen myself not only tempted to whine about the small things in life that I am “so-called entitled to”, but actually doing it! And the more the grumbling slipped out, the more I noticed it around me, and the more it kept cropping up in my own mouth and the mouth of others.
“I don’t like this!” I finally said to myself (and my husband). “This has to stop. I do not want to be a complainer.”
That was about the time God sent Ephesians 5:20 my way: “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Really, God? Always? And for everything?!! Yeah. Right. Ok. Gonna need your help on this one…Here we go…”
Thus began a several-day intentional practice of “giving thanks for everything”. (I figured I’d start there and maybe my heart would pick up on the habit and move into the “always”.)
Day 1: “Thanks for patient co-workers and free music via Pandora.”
Day 2: “Thanks for not letting my clumsiness get me into more trouble.”
Around day 3 or 4, I had something I was legitimately thankful for, not just trying to be thankful for: good hair days! After just a few days in, my heart starting noticing the positive things that happened in my mundane days, rather than just the frustrating things.
And then God pulled out the growth-marker: all red lights when I’m late for work. Gulp. “Ok, God. You’re right, I’m gonna need your help with this one.”
And then on the very next day, He blessed me by unveiling a gratitude in my heart that I didn’t know was even possible. He opened my eyes, pulled me up a few hundred thousand feet, and showed me the Bigger Picture of what was mine to enjoy for this season of my life, and this season only: beautiful sunrises and sunsets on my daily commute. For, when else in my life would I daily be in the right place at such the right time to enjoy both?! A small thing to enjoy, perhaps, but true gratitude is a piece of eternity.
So Day 7 or so, I’m back in the swing of trying to be intentional in gratitude…but it’s slipping back into, “oh, I just would rather complain about this.”
And thus my gratitude growth project tapered off for several days. Until today.
You see, I was getting really frustrated once again at something outside of my control (computer software, to be more exact), and instead of just complaining, God stirred up in me prayer. Yes, again, a small thing perhaps, but that prayer was answered. It wasn’t a specific request really, just a “Ah, Lord! Ok, at least this little frustration is giving me cause to turn to you in prayer. That’s something I can be thankful for!” And God led me promptly to the solution just moments after my prayer.
So…tonight, I took it a little further: I let it all out to God – not the tiny little things that bugged me, but the big stuff – the unfulfilled desires that I was just tired of waiting on Him for. And I landed at a beautiful position of letting go – of release – of trust.
And it struck me.
The Other Side of Heaven Christian doesn’t complain. The In-Process, This Side of Christ’s Return Christian obeys Philippians 2:14-15 and Ephesians 5:20 by turning complaints into prayer.
Is that not revealed in the messages of the Psalms? And the psalmist often had much more significant things to complain about than frustrating computer software and red lights on the way to work – though even as I say that, I’m realizing that much more often, we simply see in the Psalm a heart’s cry, not an explanation of the context and circumstance behind the heart’s cry…which makes it much easier to apply to us, does it not?.
What gets me excited about this simple discovery tonight is that it makes God accessible to the rest of the world, the world not yet in personal relationship with God. Instead of just hearing the command “Don’t complain!”, hear this, harken to this, all ye complainers in the world: God has open ears to those who turn to Him with their heart-aches and frustrations. You complain because you feel dis-satisfied. And perhaps you truly believe you are entitled to what you do not have. But guess what? You were entitled to ultimate satisfaction! And God has that for you, if you turn to Him! Sure, He gave us Phil. 2:14-15 and Eph. 5:20, so we really should work on not being complainers. But maybe that’s in part because He doesn’t like it anymore than you and I do when we just sit around and whine. But the great thing is He can do something about our frustration. The point isn’t what He does about it, but that He does something. And that whatever it is that you don’t have that you expect satisfaction from, He can provide true satisfaction if you just ask Him.
So, complainers, don’t stop your whining. Just turn your whining into prayer to the Only One who can make, and will someday soon make the world as it was meant to be.
November 23, 2010