I usually find myself grappling with complaints in the very first hour back. THIS is the new schedule? I'll be teaching in THAT classroom? HE'S the student assigned to me?
You'd think a solid eight weeks of rest, relaxation, and traveling would immunize me against complaints for longer than twenty seven minutes, but it just doesn't work that way.
Over the last few months, I've been trying something different. When I feel a complaining spirit rising up in me, I say THANK YOU. Sometimes out loud, sometimes in mind. Usually when I say it, I don't even know what I'm saying thank you for. But as soon as the words leave my lips, the gratitude starts flowing.
Sitting in traffic: Oh, geez, here we go, I'm going to be late! [Sigh.] THANK YOU, Lord, for giving me the opportunity to go to this place I'm traveling to. Thank you for bringing me this far and being with me now--thank you that I am never alone! It looks like there is an accident up ahead. Thank you for keeping me safe. Lord, please be with the people who are in that car! Thank you for helping me to get a bigger perspective here. Thank you for giving me patience.
Getting dental work done: As much as I hate being at the dentist...thank you. THANK YOU! I am so grateful to have good medical care and a dentist that is kind and competent. Thank you, God, that because of this discomfort right now, I won't have to go through a lifetime of untreated pain! Thank you for your assurance that you will never give me more than I can bear.
Irritated with a stressful situation at work: I can't believe this is happening. I'm so angry right now...but...thank you. Thank you, Lord. I'll keep saying it to myself until I figure out what I'm thankful for. Thank you giving me this job. Thank you for equipping me to handle everything that comes my way. Thank you for the chance to be a positive influence when other people have creating a discouraging situation. Thank you for helping me figure out what to do next. Thank you for working everything together for my good.
It's amazing how just the utterance of these words shifts my whole outlook and mood almost instantly. One moment I feel like I could moan and groan forever about what's going wrong, and suddenly I am deep in conversation with God, completely refocused on everything that is right in my life.
Next time you find yourself complaining--whether it's about something legitimately awful or a simple overreaction--I hope you'll give this practice a try. Just say THANK YOU. Watch the way these words can humble even the hardest heart, and take the most frustrating events and put them in the proper, eternal perspective.
God tells us to give thanks in ALL things. More and more, I understand that this directive is not for His benefit, it's for ours! We're the ones who are most blessed as His peace and contentment flow down to us. When we recognize a complaining spirit and take just a moment to cultivate a grateful heart, we bring our thinking in line with God's word and open ourselves up for Him to work. The negative feelings which were overwhelming us then subside, leaving us refreshed and ready to take on whatever comes next.
Thank you, Lord!