Our culture loves to consume. We work, we earn, we shop, we buy. We even shop from the comfort of our homes at all different hours of the day. Our wish lists are packed and nicely categorized and are shared with family and friends. In our pursuits to consume, we do not realize that we are actually being consumed. Never have people in our society owned so much, yet felt so empty and it’s only getting worse.
This consumeristic emptiness that we experience has a tendency to make us complainers. The connection is undeniable. The more we feed the desire for consumption, the more we are consumed. The more we consume in pursuit of satisfaction, the more we are dissatisfied, it is a gnarly cycle.
God does not want His people to complain. He hates complaints so much that He banished an entire generation into the wilderness for their complaints (1 Cor 10:6–13, esp. v. 10). Still, in God’s mercy He gives us a way out of complaint through the simple act of gratitude. God’s people are characterized by gratitude, not complaint. We must recognize that God would never demand gratitude from us and not give us anything to be grateful for! He is constantly providing people, things, and experiences we can praise Him for; the problem is that we must align our values with His.
For those who may struggle with the sin of complaining, we must intentionally look for evidences of God’s grace. Then, having recognized God’s grace it is helpful to write them down as a spiritual discipline of engraving into our minds that God is indeed kind and generous towards us. This is where journaling can be an important part of the discipline of gratitude. Here are a few ideas on what to journal. Some of these suggestions can be jotted down in minutes, others might take longer. Either way, they will help cultivate greater gratitude and a more sensitive eye towards the goodness of God in your life.
#1: Record a recent triumph I had over sin and/or temptation. How did God bring that sin to light? Did he use another believer to expose the sin? Was it in your personal devotional time? How did repenting from that sin change your relationship with the Lord or with other Christians? Repentance is a gift from God.
#2: Record the news of another brother or sister in Christ having victory over sin and/or temptation. If I haven’t heard of any, I might ask a close friend about recent victories over sin they’ve had, it is really encouraging to ask for good news in accountability settings. We should celebrate with other Christians when they have victory over sin. If you haven’t heard of a victory over sin, point-blank ask someone in your church.
#3: Journal ways your church has grown over the last 3–5 years. Thinking over longer periods of time really helps give us perspective and trajectory. It’s hard to see progress through a smaller time frame. Christian maturity is evidence that God is head of the church (Eph 1, 4).
#4: Write down the title and significant lines of a Christian hymn or song that was sung at your church’s Sunday worship. Music has a way of sticking in our minds and hearts. We should be grateful to God for giving us such a beautiful way of making truth memorable.
#5: Record a conversation with an older saint that encouraged you. Record a conversation with a younger saint that encouraged you. Afterwards, read and meditate on Titus 2.
#6: Record, in detail, the daily provisions that God has given you. This can include what you ate at your meals, the clothes on your back, the chair you’re sitting on, the house you’re living in, etc. and after listing them all remind yourself that it has all come from God.
#7: Record your Christian testimony. Start from your unbelief, then move to describe your conversion, and then describe your Christian life. List the people who have helped you grow. The books that spurred you on. The sermons that put fire in your bones to live for God. The churchess you’ve been a member of and how God used each church to grow you. Reflect on how far God has carried you and how He has taken care of you every step of the way.