When the world tells me things will never change, and it feels like God is all but silent, being anchored to the Word helps me realize that God has been working behind the scenes all along.
During COVID, the world felt like it was spinning out of control. Every day we heard something new regarding the disease, including how many people had died, whether to vaccinate or not vaccinate, and which places required masks. Because our worlds descended into chaos, it was easy to start complaining about life's tough circumstances. But once everything started going back to normal, the grumbling didn't disappear. In fact, it got worse. It's easy to express our disappointment with the way life was on social media. In essence, COVID created a world full of complainers. But this is not Jesus's plan for our lives. Jesus told his followers it was important to give thanks. Jesus chose to spend his last few moments on earth before the crucifixion eating with his disciples and giving thanks:
If Jesus could be grateful for his pending circumstances, then we should too. But being thankful instead of complaining is easier said than done. Moses had to deal with people complaining about getting manna instead of meat and vegetables. It was difficult for Moses to lead his people into a posture of gratitude rather than grumbling. In today's day and age, it's equally as difficult. What do we do when we're so used to grumbling that we don't know how to stop?
Here are a few ways I have learned to express gratitude when I'm tempted to grumble:
Count Your Blessings
I count my blessings. When I find my attitude is less than Christ-like, I try to focus on all the blessings God has given me instead of the difficult, unknown circumstances. I take a blank sheet of paper from my journal and give thanks for everything I see and have. It is especially difficult to express gratitude when I'm feeling down, I'll even thank God for the clothes on my back, the breakfast I just ate, or the pair of shoes I'm wearing. There's always something to be thankful for if only we're willing to look.
Submit to God's Will
Second, I realign myself with God's will. I meditate on a particular Scripture so that I'm focusing on the truth rather than the world's false and empty promises. It may take time for me to naturally become grateful, but if I spend extra time meditating on Scripture, it gets my mind off myself and onto Jesus. When my mind is focused on Jesus, all the promises that God has in his Word come flooding back. This makes me feel like I'm not alone. When I understand Jesus is with me and I'm not alone, it allows me to become more grateful.
Express the Fruits of the Spirit
I express the Fruits of the Spirit to others. It can be as simple as opening the door for someone behind me or letting someone go ahead of me in traffic; when I actively express random acts of kindness, it makes it easier to remember who I am in Christ and, therefore, out of great love, I'm able to express my gratitude to God. Sometimes it's a simple act of kindness or goodness to others that lifts my spirits and allows me to not be so focused on the negative parts of life.
Surrender the Need for Control
I let go of the things that are out of my control. I spent so much of my life controlling people so I didn't have to face pain, but I forgot who's really in control. As much as I would love to manipulate circumstances so that they go my way, I have no way of knowing what the future holds. Although it's very difficult for me to surrender control, when I allow God access to my life circumstances, it is freeing to know that God is already working on my behalf, even if I don't see it. This allows me to become more grateful for what God has done.
By stopping to give thanks throughout my day, it allows me to remember that my Heavenly Father knows all my situations and is working towards my good. As Jeremiah 29:11 suggests, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Although this is a popular verse, Jeremiah says this to his people after they've waited seventy years for them to hear from God. Several generations lived and died without any indication that they would receive what was promised to them. Jeremiah gives this prophecy as a word of comfort to those who are still waiting to see what God is about to do. Sometimes our grumbling comes from many years of praying with seemingly no result. But God does not work on our timeline. There is still hope that God will answer your prayer request even if it takes years (or even decades) to be fulfilled.
Don't Let the Past Interfere with Your Thankfulness
I need to make sure my past is not interfering with my ability to praise God. I confess my sins regularly, process through previous pain, and out of a healthy place, I can then express gratitude. Gratitude is not easy to express when I'm feeling angry or bitter. However, gratitude changes my anger and bitterness into praise and thanksgiving. It helps me realize that God is at the center of everything in my life. Journaling is important so I can get out all my negative emotions and process my pain to be in the best place spiritually.
Even better, when I memorize Scripture, it will easily come to mind when I'm tempted to grumble or get angry about my circumstances. When I do the work of Scripture memorization, it is more difficult for Satan to whisper lies when I'm anchored to the truth of God's Word.
Post Scripture Reminders
I take my favorite Bible verses, write them on index cards, and tape them around the home. Every time I go to the refrigerator or in my bathroom, I am reminded of all that God has done for his people then and for me now. These constant reminders help me focus on the truth of Scripture rather than the world's lies. When the world tells me things will never change, and it feels like God is all but silent, being anchored to the Word helps me realize that God has been working behind the scenes all along.
I try to do one nice thing for someone each day. It could be as simple as writing a handwritten note or texting a friend to let them know I'm grateful for their presence in my life. When I think about others, my heart is filled with joy. It is difficult to be angry or upset when I'm doing things for others. I also love seeing people respond when I have blessed them.
Being grateful doesn't only have to be expressed at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving can be every day by giving thanks in all circumstances. Although this is difficult (and I certainly fail when I'm trying to do this), switching my brain from one of grumbling to one of gratitude, I focus on what really matters and become a little more like Jesus too.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.