098. Thanksgiving (Part 1): Yeah, Don’t Complain. Now What?

22 May, 2013

One thing that’s always never sat right with me is when people tell others to stop complaining and to be thankful because there are those who are worse off. Like, “Kids, be thankful for your green beans because there are starving kids in Africa who would love to have those beans.”  Yeah, as if anyone wants green beans.

The thing wrong with this kind of thankfulness is answered when we ask, “what are we actually thankful for?” If we had to bring up the kids in Africa to convince our kids to be thankful, then we basically end up being thankful that there are people who are worse off than us.

If those people didn’t exist, then neither would our reason to be thankful. The root of our thankfulness becomes the starvation of others. And if we’re thankful due to the fact that there are those worse off than us, then why can’t we just look the opposite way and look at those better off than us? “You should be thankful for your toy because there are poor kids who don’t have toys.” But then what about those rich kids who have more toys than me?

So what can be used to inspire thankfulness also inspires complaints. There’s a reason for this. There’s two major elements missing from this equation: Who are we supposed to be thankful to?  And why? Thankful, to Who?

Obviously we are supposed to be thankful to God, but we take Him out of the equation when we make it about others being worse off than us. Now I’m not talking about not complaining about or enjoying what we have. I can refrain from complaints and enjoy a taco and at the same time not thank the one who made it.

Our thankfulness has to start with God. Without any comparison to others. If we did compare ourselves to others, our prayers would sound like, “God, thank you that I’m not as poor as those kids in Africa. And thank you that I’m not like George Lucas when he made the Star Wars Prequels.” We should be thankful that God provided us with the green beans, not because others don’t have them.

Thankful, Why? God also has reasons He’s blessed you with what you have or don’t have. And those reason are good (Romans 8:28). His purpose isn’t to make sure we have tons of stuff or that our lives are problem free. His purpose is to have a better relationship with us. Because He loves us. Sometimes it means not being as rich as we’d like, or having a sickness, or something else we’d consider ‘bad’, because God has a larger purpose. Knowing that, we can be thankful that God made us the way we are, in any situation, because He loves us and has a plan for us. Then we can truly live out the verse:

1TH 5:[18] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So what do we do? If what we’re trying to do is turn complaints into thanks, then let’s use our complaints. When you sit down to pray, think of two things that you complain about and give thanks for them.  

The tricky part is being creative to find something to give thanks for.

1. At minimum, you can be thanking that God is trying to grow certain qualities in you.  These qualities will be things like faith, humility or one of the fruit of the spirit.  For example if you find yourself complaining about how a family member is treating you, try to think of the qualities God is trying to grow in you.

2. Then the next step is to thank God for that situation.  You don’t have to even know why God is allowing to happen.  Maybe the situation is happening because he it trying to move you in a certain direction.

3. Then one other step is thanking God because the only reason why he’s allowing it to happen is because he loves us – that he’s doing it to grow us closer to himself. Remember, God knows what he’s doing. If we truly believe God knows what he’s doing, then we’ll be thankful and find it harder to complain about the very things he’s doing for our benefit. And since I too am a sinner, I still find it difficult to be thankful for the Star Wars Prequels.

1TH 5:16 Be joyful always; [17] pray continually; [18] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Today’s Fruit of the Spirit: Joy.  Be joyful in all the blessings God has given you. Take time to pray: Thank God for using the situations in your life to draw you closer to Him.