Trust and thankfulness. That is how we should live each and every day. When we trust God, we are remembering that He is fully aware of all of our circumstances. We remember that He knows all of our needs, that He is in control of it all, and He loves us… He. Loves. You.
Thankfulness keeps us from criticizing and complaining about people and situations we face. Sarah Young (in Jesus Calling, February 21), calls them “those “sister sins” that so easily can entangle you.”
Daily, moment by moment we get to choose to trust God…or not. The more we choose to trust Him, the easier it becomes. We get to choose to be thankful instead of grumbling and complaining.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s no big deal to criticize and complain. After all, there sure is a lot to complain about in this world. Whether it’s in the big world or our own little corner of it. Like the mechanic that really messed up your car, or the waitress that was rude and gave you horrible service. Maybe things aren’t going so great in your family, or ___________ you fill in the blank! But to criticize and complain IS a big deal. Scripture says that it is out of our own heart…what the heart is full of…that is what comes out of our mouth (see Luke 6:45). If we are constantly criticizing others, and complaining about everything that is not the way we want it to be, those patterns are becoming (or have already become) deeply etched in our heart and mind.
The good news is, there is a way to erase those etchings. When we realize what we have been doing and confess our sin (yes, it is sin), when we confess it to God we have His forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
He then has room to create something new within us. New patterns of trust and thankfulness. Oh, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. We have to make the conscious choice to trust Him when we want to worry or complain. We have to choose to thank Him before the words of criticism leach out of our lips. We say this often, and we tend to parrot the words in scripture; “Be thankful in all things…”(1 Thess. 5:18), but sometimes I think we simply don’t know how to look past the situation we are in. Look past it friend, and look to His face.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8
We can not always be thankful for the situation itself. Life is hard, and things happen that are frustrating or gut wrenching. But when we seek His face we gain a new perspective. We start to see how much we truly have to be thankful for. If God has allowed it we can thank Him for being with us through it. We can thank Him for hearing our prayers. We can thank Him that His promises never fail, that His Word is true, and that His love for us will never end. We begin to see the myriad of things in our day to day lives that we can, and should be thankful for.
Friend, every time we choose to trust Him instead of being anxious…every time we choose to be thankful instead of complaining, we are creating new thought patterns that can be etched into our hearts and minds. When we are overflowing with gratitude, we aren’t giving voice to the complaining and criticizing. A thankful heart protects us from the negative thinking that is so easy to get caught up in. Let’s purpose to get caught up in all that is right…instead of all that is not.
Problems and irritations will always be there as long as we live in this world. But we can choose to honor God with how we respond to them.
I never want to write about anything and not be real. So I need to be humbly honest with you. After I started writing this post… I. Was. Tested. Oh yes. I honestly wanted to turn my car around and stupid slap someone. Then it hit me what was going on.
There was the person who cut across the road in front of me so closely I had to hit my brakes to avoid hitting him. I laid on my horn and muttered “idiot” under my breath. This was on my way to church. Yes, it was. Then there was the poor customer service along with thirty-four minutes on hold before speaking with someone. After still not receiving the product, I tried two more times to call the company…seventeen minutes on hold…thirty-eight minutes on hold…no one ever answered. I was not a happy camper.
On the road again to run some errands, and three separate vehicles on three separate roads were riding my bumper. I was going the speed limit which was apparently not fast enough for them. I don’t care to get another speeding ticket, thank you very much! On my way home the incident occurred where I wanted to stupid slap the person. That’s when it hit me. That’s when the Holy Spirit sort of slapped me! I was writing about trusting Him and being thankful, to keep from criticizing and complaining…and within three days I realized just how much more growing I need to do!
It seems like when we have to deal with others’ ineptness, lack of work ethic, apathy, rudeness (the list could go on), that’s when the criticizing and complaining comes into play full force. When it comes to dealing with other people, we struggle. But honestly, the struggle is not with others. It is with ourselves. It is with our old sin nature. Sure, Satan is out there prowling around looking for someone to tempt, destroy and devour (see 1 Peter 5:8). He’s constantly shooting his fiery darts at us to hurt us, to cause us to lose our testimony. But, if we take responsibility for ourselves and our own spiritual growth (Philippians 2:12-15)…if we are putting on our spiritual armor every day (Ephesians 6:13-17)…if we are not making provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14)…then we will be abiding in Christ and not so easily tripped up by minor irritations of life. When we are being filled with the Holy Spirit daily, we are more able to offer thanksgiving to God instead of rushing to complain. You see, God’s Word gives us everything we need to know how to live this life we are given (see 2 Peter 1:2-8).
Take God’s Word in, live God’s Word out.
So what are we to do when that person cuts us off, or someone is unable (or unwilling) to give the help or service needed? First I think we should utter a prayer of thanksgiving…for safety, or for the ability to be kind to someone who maybe doesn’t deserve it. When you think about it, none of us deserve God’s kindness, but He showers it on us anyway. We can say a prayer for the other person. Honestly, they have needs we know nothing about. Show grace.
“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.” Psalm 63:3
We can choose to be the hands and feet…and lips of Jesus. Because we may be the only person to be Jesus to someone who desperately needs Him. We never know. But Jesus does.
Let’s be less quick to criticize, and quicker to behave Christ-like. Let’s be quicker to make sure our own behavior is pleasing to God. Let’s be more dependent on Him and the Holy Spirit in us, and not so dependent on how others behave towards us. Ultimately our behavior is our own responsibility and there will be no excuses when we stand before Christ. No blame game. Only one thing: were we…are we obedient and faithful to God and what His word tells us.
“Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength….and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31
Yes others will hurt us, misuse us, misunderstand us, and wrong us in one way or another. We do live in a fallen world after all. What would it look like…think of the influence we could have for the Gospel of Christ if we were filled daily with God’s Word and His Spirit, and acted Christ-like in the face of adversity instead of reacting in the flesh? Just Wow. The things that could happen!
Less criticizing + More thankfulness = More peace, more joy
Friends, the more we are abiding in Christ…staying close, being filled with His Word and the Holy Spirit…the more the light of Jesus will begin to shine through us. Others will be drawn to us instead of avoiding us. No one wants to be around negative complaining all the time. But when the light of Jesus shines through us, when we show grace to others, we can begin to influence others for good. Let it start with us.
Glad He’s still working on me!