Instead of focussing on what stresses me out and what worries me today, I am choosing to be grateful. If I’m not careful, however, I can allow this positive perspective to shift to complaining and criticizing. Just looking at Facebook status updates halfway inspires me to join the plethora of groaning about everything from what sports team lost to which side of the political isle is stupid to what a bad day we are all having!
It reminds me of the Israelites who walked across the Red Sea on dry land; shortly thereafter, they remembered with fondness the wonderful food they could eat as slaves in Egypt and longed for those days, complaining about the Lord’s miraculous provision of manna.
The very thing that they were saved from is the thing they ended up wanting to go back to time and time again.
I read these passages and think, “How could those Israelites be so ungrateful? Wasn’t the fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day that led them towards the Promised Land evidence enough that God was with them? Couldn’t walking across the Red Sea on dry land to escape the Egyptians be cause enough for total devotion and gratitude to God for saving and rescuing them out of slavery? The daily provision of food and safety should have been cause for celebrating not contravening.”
They complained about the manna, having no meat to eat. God sent quail and it wasn’t long until that was unsatisfying again. Even when they finally reached their destination, 80 percent of the leaders sent to spy out the land came back with a negative report- faithless, and fearful. How easy is it for us to look on the outside and judge these Chosen Ones? We look at all of these scenarios and think, “If God did all that for me, I would never (fill-in-the-blank)!” We look at others’ lives and think, “if I had that job, that house, those children, that vacation, I would be more grateful.”
I can remember a time not too long ago when I was desperately seeking God to provide us with a house we could live in and at a good price. God miraculously provided the perfect location, a newer house, the price we wanted, fabulous neighbours, and more. Yet upon moving in, I quickly started complaining about the smallness of my kitchen. I hated the sounds of the barking dogs around me during rest time. I lamented the small backyard. I made excuses to my guests and compared it to my spacious kitchen in Texas. For crying out loud, I have to keep all of my food in the makeshift pantry I created in the laundry room closet beneath my staircase!
If I’m not cautious, my desire to please God daily can be overturned by my own rotten attitude at times. Paul persuades us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (Philppians 2:14).
What pleases God is an attitude of gratitude. The Israelites never quite got this and it actually kept them out of the promised land. They missed out on all that God had for them going around the same mountain over and over. God called them a “stiff-necked” people. Stubborn and hard-headed were they indeed! How quickly we can shift our tune from gratitude to complaining. And, like the Israelites, we can miss out on all that God has in store. Let us steward the things he has given us with a grateful spirit. The grass isn’t greener on the other side. I can look at what is before me and see the redeeming work of Jesus in my family, the health of myself and my kids, our progress in building Lift Church, and I’m astonished!
I won’t waste time turning back to long for another day or another way.
We must turn our focus onto the things within our reach instead of the things we can’t change or influence. We can’t control what has been placed in our hands but we can control what we do with it.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)