From Complaining to Thankfulness
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
There are often times in parenting when I take time to reflect for a minute and wonder, “Is this really happening?” Today was one of those times. My 4-year-old son is learning how to be patient and thankful instead of complaining, and it’s a hard lesson to learn. I mean, who am I kidding? I’m still learning that lesson myself.
Today, after playing for a while he had to go to the bathroom. Instead of just going to the bathroom to take care of business he came into the kitchen very upset. “Why do I always have to go to the bathroom?” he yelled.
I tried to engage him and explain that this is natural, we all have to use the bathroom multiple times a day and that he could go right back to playing when he was finished. I also warned that if he didn’t go to the bathroom he would eventually have an accident in his pants. However, he continued to yell: “It’s not fair!”, “I never get time to play!” and “Why are you being so mean to me?”
The heart of the issue
I sat down with him for a minute to try to engage him in a conversation about his heart. I explained that he is complaining about something that cannot be fixed. I also wanted to make sure that he understood that I was not trying to be mean. I was just trying to help him out by telling him the natural consequences of his choice to not go to the bathroom.
As I watched this little boy throw a fit about something that seemed so small to me, it reminded me how much I complain about things that are so small in the big picture of God’s kingdom, power and providence. How many times do I complain that I did not get enough sleep as I care for a small baby, that I have a messy house that I do not want to clean up or that money feels tight even though God has always provided? God is not looking at me thinking, “Is this really happening?”. He might be thinking something more along the line of “Child, remember my Word”. He put the truth in His Word. As I looked at my son and asked him to take my logic and use it to change his emotions, I realized that God asks us to look at His Word and allow it to change our emotions.
The power of prayer
As I sat with my son, I could see that my encouragement alone could not help him to feel better. I realized that I needed to pray. At first, he did not want me to pray. He fought against me, trying to drown out my words. I told him that he did not have to pray, but I was going to because I didn’t know how else to help him. At first he was making ugly faces and grunting. It made me think about the times when I feel my heart pulled to pray or spend time with God, but I’m just in my own mood and I don’t want to. So I started praying prayers of thanks for our family and our friends and for the good things He gives us. He started to quiet down and listen to the prayer. I prayed for God to help my son to be thankful and not complain. Then I left him to go to the bathroom and thought, “Wow, I need to pray like that when I’m feeling like complaining.” After all, it’s with good reason that God tells us in His word to give thanks in every circumstance. We’re created to have a heart of thankfulness.
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
- What circumstances in your life are causing you to feel impatient or complain?
- When life gets tough, do you have a heart of thankfulness?
- How do you react when others in your life complain or becom impatient?
- Would you react differently to these situations if you tried to look at your situation from a larger perspective?
- How does prayer and looking at God’s Word change your heart?
- What will you do differently the next time you feel like complaining or becoming impatient?
Father God, thank you for your patience with me. Please help me to be thankful instead of complaining. Thank you for all of the good things in my life. Help me to remember your Word and replace my emotions with truth.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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