Giving Thanks When You Want to Complain

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

The Impossible Work of Taming the Tongue
Katie Gutierrez

I’ve had days when the enemy whispers words of doubt, discouragement, and frustration in my ear over and over again. He loves to leverage all the difficulties in my life to make them look and feel hopeless, unfair, and overwhelming.
With each overwhelming and frustrating feeling, I’m tempted to utter the grumbling that wells up in my mind.
Yet, complaining and grumbling aren’t the way I’m supposed to live. The Lord brings to mind scriptures I memorized years ago, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14-15, NKJV) And “Rejoice always…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18, NKJV)
These two instructions—first, to do all things without complaining and second, to rejoice and give thanks always—seem to be two of the most difficult and the most overlooked in scripture.

The complaint trap:
On the surface, complaining doesn’t seem like a big deal. Everyone complains! However, to complain, at its most basic level, is to express dissatisfaction, fault, or accusation. As author Merlin Carothers points out, “By complaining and grumbling you are actually accusing God of mismanaging the details of your day.” (Power in Praise)
Complaining is a big deal to God because it is an expression of unbelief rather than faith.
Rejoicing and giving thanks, on the other hand, are expressions of faith. They are rooted in a belief that God is in control of every detail of our lives and is using each detail for our good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NKJV)
But often, rejoicing and giving thanks feels like the most unnatural and undesirable things to do. We are so used to complaining, our emotions resist the idea of thanking God for circumstances that seem inconvenient or unfair.  
How are we supposed to stop complaining and start rejoicing?

Look to Jesus to gain a heavenly perspective
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3, NKVJ)
We transform our words when we transform our thoughts by remembering the truth of the gospel. When I am tempted to complain about my circumstances, the Lord teaches me to lift my gaze heavenward to Jesus.
Look to Him to gain perspective on the difficulty you’re facing. He has defeated sin and death and is seated at the right hand of God on the throne of heaven! There is nothing outside of His sovereign care. When we gain the heavenly perspective we gain confidence that our God is working out something far greater and better than we could imagine in our pain and frustration.
The most practical way to set our mind on things above and gain a heavenly perspective is through meditating on God’s word. Go to His word and stay in His word until you can leave with a heart able to rejoice in God. We don’t need to understand why, we don’t need to feel thankful for the difficulty. But we can always be thankful that God is in control, that God is good, and that God has given His Son to save us.

Look to Jesus to receive His enabling grace
James wrote, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body…and it is set on fire by hell…no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:6-8, NKJV)
Our efforts to tame our tongues and stop them from complaining are useless. Scripture has told us clearly that no man can tame the tongue. It is impossible.
But isn’t this the purpose of the gospel? The gospel tells us that Jesus came to do what was impossible for us. Our efforts to control our lives, to do good, and to stop doing evil have proven again and again to be hopeless. We know from experience how exhausting and how fruitless it is to try and stop sinning. No man can do it. The command is impossible.
That’s why God became a man. He became a man who did what was impossible for men to do and lived a perfect, sin-free life. No man can tame the tongue—but Jesus did. Every word Jesus spoke was pure and sinless. His tongue was tame. It never complained.
Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we can now share in His life. Through His death, He has put our old man to death and through His resurrection, He has given us the power of His Holy Spirit. The only way to cease our complaining tongues is to allow the Holy Spirit to transform them.
It’s impossible for men, but it is possible for God.

Next time the enemy tempts you with frustration, overwhelm, and discouragement, look to Jesus! Exchange your perspective for His and surrender your grumbling tongue to Him and receive His enabling grace to rejoice.

  Katie Gutierrez loves an urban cafe as much as the smell of campfire and pine. Works in communications while studying business and non-fiction writing and is most happy when leading worship and discipling others.
Christian Living Complaining Gospel Grace Holy Spirit

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