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Grumbling to Gratitude

Tuesday, February 28 Lent Calendar* Invite: Fast today from any whining, complaining, or criticizing.

Back in my early twenties when I was a Bible camp counselor, if my campers would whine or complain, I would say, “Did you know that according to Philippians 2:14, you aren’t supposed to grumble?” I would say this not in a Bible-beating righteous tone, but rather in a half serious, half joking tone. On more than one occasion, a camper responded, “You’re making that up. The Bible doesn’t say that.” I would reply with a smile, “I am happy to prove it.” My ultimate goal for my campers who were complaining about the weather or their mattress or having to scrape dirty plates after lunch was a change of attitude. I wanted them to move from whining and complaining to gratitude and graciousness.

When I became a mom, my disdain for whining only grew. I think it is impossible to be a parent and to never hear whining or complaining or grumbling or criticizing. I want to pause here and note that I encourage my children and others to speak up if they have a concern or a problem. That is not the same thing as whining.

So what is whining, complaining, and (unconstructive) criticizing? I would say those are negative approaches that stem from self-centeredness and lack of gratitude. Let’s look again at Philippians. Paul, an early follower of Jesus and planter of many churches, wrote a letter to the church in Philippi. In the letter, he advises against grumbling. All around that advise is gratitude and selflessness. This letter is sometimes called “a letter of joy” or “Paul’s happiest letter.” Ironically, this letter was written while Paul was wrongfully imprisoned; he could have easily complained. Yet he begins and ends his letter with thanksgivings. In the middle of the letter, Paul poetically describes the sacrificial love of Christ, how Jesus emptied himself for the sake of others. His closing thoughts include these words, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me.”

Maybe the best way to combat whining and complaining and criticizing is to follow wisdom from the letter to the Philippians:

  • Practice gratitude.

  • “Empty” ourselves… or, in other words, humble ourselves, moving from selfishness to selflessness.

  • Find contentment as we lean on Jesus.

Today if any sort of unconstructive grumble gets to the forefront of your mind or to the tip of your tongue, turn that grumble into a gratitude. See the difference it can make.

*Find the daily Lent calendar here; or for the Lent calendar more specific to Ascension Lutheran Church, go here.

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