Complaining or Thanking?

Complaining or Thanking?

Complaining or Thanking?

Written by Ann Margaret McIntosh

By nature, I’m feisty.  Sometimes I talk AT God.  It’s a terrible habit and one I’m desperately trying to break.  At times, I seem to be making improvements and at other times…well…

The other night I was feeling so desperate for an answer, I actually gave God a deadline.  I told Him He had until 9:00am and if I hadn’t heard from Him, I had a certain course of action mapped out.  Believe it or not, He answered me!  I have no idea why.  If I were Him, I would have smacked me upside the head.  I guess He loves me in spite of myself.  He is, after all, the one who created this feisty nature.

(I just looked feisty up in the dictionary.)

“quick to take offense”

“showing courage”

I really like the second definition.  Unfortunately, the first one most often applies to me.  Have you ever been offended by God?  Have you had to walk through something you didn’t want to?  I must confess, God’s plan for my life has offended me at times.   When I’m offended is when I tend to talk AT Him.

God has been showing me a better way to communicate and as I share these, I hope and pray they resonate with you.  How we approach Him in prayer is important.  Here are three key lessons I’m learning:

Complaining and lamenting are two separate things.  I love this quote by Ann Voscamp:  “Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.  Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father’s heart.”

I must confess I have been guilty of complaining instead of lamenting.  Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need;” however, the attitude with which we approach the throne of grace is important.  Make sure it is one of lamenting, not complaining.

Posture in prayer is important.  Mark Batterson states in his book, The Circle Maker, “Posture is to prayer as tone is to communication.  If words are what you say, then posture is how you say it.”  I feel convicted as I write this.  I have gone to God flailing around and waving my arms, shouting my emotion.  (I can be quite animated).  Don’t get me wrong, He loves us anyway and accepts us exactly where we are; however, as I have begun to posture myself differently and speak more reverently, my prayer life has been changing.  The Bible speaks of various postures in prayer:  kneeling, falling prostrate, the laying on of hands, etc.  One thing I know is that when I am kneeling or prostrate before him instead of pacing the floor, hands waving in the air, I am acknowledging my lowliness and His Authority.  If my hands are raised in surrender, I can feel the internal shift from pride to humility.  God honors humility and humility honors God.  Sometimes, just posturing myself a certain way begins the shift from me to Him.  It changes the focus from the “big-ness” of the problem to the “big-ness” of God.

Be purposeful about thanksgiving.

I have been actively practicing gratitude.  For me, this has involved keeping an ongoing list of things for which I’m thankful.  The goal is to add to it each day.   Now, I have yet to master this but I am much better at it than I used to be.  Practicing gratitude saved me this past year.  I have frequently (and somewhat sarcastically) referred to 2012 as “the year of sickness and death.”  Most of 2012 was spent dealing with serious illness or the dying of someone or something.   Adding to my daily list of thankfulness reminded me of the small graces given me each day, graces I may have overlooked had I not chosen to give them thought.  The more I focused on these small graces, the more they multiplied.  The more they multiplied, the more God sustained me.  I believe that within this process, I am moving from enduring life to living life.

Maybe that’s what it takes to move this feisty girl from offense to courage:  lamenting instead of complaining—moving from the bitter howl of unbelief and distrust to crying out in belief to a good God capable of redeeming any circumstance. Maybe it is posturing myself in a way that demonstrates humility and says to Him, “YOU are my source—not money, not relationships, not power, not status, not human effort—YOU.”  Maybe, just maybe, it is being purposeful about thanksgiving, even in the midst of unbearable grief and pain.  I’m not saying this is easy.  These things require discipline but as we work through our afflictions, we are “…achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4: 4-7)

“Though my marriage tree may not bud and though my crop of children may fail and my work produce little yield, though there is no money in the bank and no dream left in the heart, though others may choose different ways to live their one life, till my last heaving breath, I will fight to the death for this:  “I will take joy.”  (Habakkuk 3:18)

You can read more about Ann Margaret here.

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5 Responses to “Complaining or Thanking?”

  1. Linda

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I’m taking it into MY heart today.

  2. Melinda

    Great way to look and feel about our insecurities and frustrations from time to time…love it AM