Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in America, a day where we communicate our gratitude in front of others.
As much as I love the Thanksgiving festivities, we must admit that this response isn’t typical for us. The default language of the hearts of sinners is grumbling.
This tension between complaint and gratitude tugs at your heart constantly. It’s a spiritual battle, and the result shapes fundamentally different responses of how you live. It’s a spiritual battle, because it’s rooted in radically different ways of seeing yourself.
Did you catch that provocative statement? I’ll rephrase it: the decision to complain or the decision to give thanks are both rooted in the way you think about yourself.
Complaint is an identity issue. If we place ourselves in the center of our world and reduce our concerns down to what we want and feel, we will operate with an entitled and demanding attitude.
This is a severe case of misplaced identity. The universe wasn’t created—nor does it operate—to satisfy our desires. We regularly don’t or can’t get what we want. But because we are entitled and demanding, we seem surprised by this reality and then naturally complain.
What if we changed our perspective on our identity?
If we humbly admit that, as a sinner, we deserve nothing but God’s wrath yet in an act of outrageous grace, he turned his face of mercy and kindness toward us, feelings of tremendous thankfulness will fill our heart.
If we remind ourselves that every good thing in our life is an undeserved blessing, we will find reasons to be grateful everywhere we look, rather than feeling entitled and disappointed.
This is what Thanksgiving should do for you spiritually. Use the holiday to remind yourself of who you are, what you deserve, and what God gave you instead.
It will radically shift your meditation from complaint to gratitude.
Enjoy the Thanksgiving celebration, but not merely because you get to eat a delicious meal and socialize with friends and family. Do those things without guilt, but above all, remember the beautiful and faithful mercy of God toward you.
If you do, you will be humble, thankful, and tender.
P.S. – in the Reflection Questions below, I’ve provided a Thanksgiving Questionnaire for you to consider personally, or with those you are gathered with.
You might also consider reading and discussing Philippians 4:4–9 as your selected Scripture.
1. Would the people who live nearest to you characterize you as a complaining person or a thankful person?
2. When was the last time you sat down to literally count your blessings?
3. When was the last time you spent time grumbling, moaning, and complaining about life?
4. When you look at your world, are you pessimistic about everything that’s going wrong?
5. When you look at your world, do you find yourself celebrating God’s common grace?
6. Do you view yourself as one who has been continuously short-changed and neglected?
7. Do you view yourself as one who has been unfairly showered with blessings?
8. How often do you fill in the blank with grumbling, like “If only I had _____” or “I wish _______ was different”?
9. How often do you fill in the blank with gratitude, like “I can’t believe God has given me _________”?
10. In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to continue their grumbling?
11. In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to find reasons to give thanks to God?
12. In your relationships, do you find yourself frequently tearing others down?
13. In your relationships, do you find yourself frequently building others up?