By Rev. Ann Mann
It is the season of giving thanks. Of course, as a child of God, we give thanks every single day for the gift of our salvation. We give thanks that Jesus Christ is Lord. We give thanks for this community. I give thanks for the congregation God has given me to serve.
Even with all we have to be thankful for, sometimes we find ourselves, let’s just say, less than thankful. We find ourselves grumbling and complaining.
Perhaps you know someone who is always grumbling and complaining? Someone who is always arguing? The food is always bad. The service is always slow. The boss is always wrong. The day is always long. The temperature is either too hot or too cold. The sky is always falling.
You get the idea.
When I think of grumbling and complaining, I remember the Israelites. You can read one example in Exodus 16:2-3. The Israelites had just been delivered from captivity and slavery in Egypt, and still, “the whole congregation of Israelites complained against Moses.”
It amazes me. The God of creation frees them from captivity with an incredible show of signs and wonders and miracles, and they are complaining!!!
But are we any different? God delivers us every day, and still, we complain. So why is that?
Some would say we dwell on the negative because it is too hard to fix what might be broken. Or we want to blame someone else for our feelings. Or we believe complaining is all that is in our control.
I think we complain because we haven’t learned to be content, because we have not fully experienced the peace of Christ. When we understand that Jesus is Lord, we can trust God with the details. We can survive the bumps in the road because we trust the God of creation, the God who loved us enough to send his Son to save us.
I don’t think we mean to grumble and complain. I think it becomes an unintentional habit or pattern. When we fully surrender ourselves to the will of Christ, we open the door to be filled with the peace of Christ, to experience the joy of the Lord.
When we fully surrender ourselves to the will of Christ, we have hope, no matter what bumps we may encounter on this road that is our life. Philippians 2:14 reminds us to do everything without grumbling or arguing. It reminds us to hold firmly to the word of life.
Every day, we are called to choose the joy of the Lord over grumbling and complaining. Every day, we are called to look for the blessings over grumbling and complaining.
We’ve all been asked, is the glass half empty or half full? We all know that answering the glass is half full makes us an optimist. We all know that answering the glass is half empty makes us a pessimist.
But here is another perspective. Perhaps the half full glass is actually FULL. The glass is half full of water. But the rest of the glass is filled with air. Just because we cannot see air does not mean it is not there.
And while I am not a scientist, I know that we need both water and air to survive. I think this is the way the Lord sees us. He sees what the world sees, and he sees what the world cannot always see. This is grace.
When we constantly grumble and complain, we need to ask ourselves, where’s the grace? Where is the grace for others, and for ourselves?
How many times do we judge ourselves, someone else, or even a situation based on what we see? When we are hypercritical, perhaps we fail to see the whole picture. Perhaps we are too quick to judge, and short of grace.
So, do we grumble and complain constantly? When we are asking ourselves the tough questions, when we are honest with ourselves, we live more authentic lives. We see where we have work to do to become more like Christ. And we see all we have to be thankful for.
In this season of giving thanks, I give thanks for you! May you be richly blessed by the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is email@example.com.