Gratitude and Grumbling
Do all things without grumbling…
There are lots of reasons to grumble. I would know because I’m prone to grumbling. But as I was reading this passage this morning, it occurred to me that grumbling is really incompatible with gratitude.
We have all had those moments when our gratefulness becomes clear and bright, when we realize just how much we have and thanksgiving wells up from inside of us. Parents will recognize this feeling from looking at their sleeping children, or from seeing them at their silliest. There are just those times when we’re overwhelmed by gratitude.
Paul had a lot of things he could have grumble about and lots of things to dispute. He had been falsely imprisoned. People were actively persecuting him. He was denied from doing his ministry out in the city, and others will filling the gap for selfish reasons. But Paul had “learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He had “learned the secret” (4:12). What was it?
All throughout the letter Paul talks about rejoicing and joy. He focuses in on, not his circumstances, but his position in Christ. Paul has trained his mind and spirit to dwell on the great salvation that he has in Jesus. More than that, Paul had learned to dwell on the greatness of God’s mission of salvation to the whole world. Nothing could stop that mission, and nothing could separate him from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35).
Paul’s secret was to cultivate gratitude for all that God had done and was doing in Christ Jesus—what he had done for Paul, personally, and what he was doing in the world at large. Grumbling is simply incompatible with gratitude. You cannot be grateful and grumble at the same time. Paul had learned to be grateful.
But Paul had learned the secret. It wasn’t as though it simply came to him in a flash. That means this post won’t change you life like some sudden epiphany. No, it requires patient, meditative work. We have to, as Martin Luther put it, preach the gospel to ourselves, daily.
By the way, that’s one reason why reading Scripture is so important. It reorients us to what is most important and to all that we have in Christ Jesus. It teaches us to be grateful. And when we’re grateful, there’s little room for grumbling.
My Lord, you gave your life for me, and there’s nothing in this world that can separate us. You have given me eternal life through faith in you. More than that, you rule in righteousness and justice from a throne, and you have set your mind to making all things new.
Forgive me my grumbling. Forgive me my ungrateful heart. And teach me to be grateful, and to rejoice in your salvation.