By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
We all grumble from time to time, whether it's about the traffic, the weather, or the lines at the grocery store. However, when we are constantly complaining, unhappy, or discontent, we probably need to break free from a spirit of ungratefulness.
The truth is ungratefulness concentrates on the negative. It skips over the blessings of God and focuses on life's problems. Often, it repels those we love most because nobody wants to be around it.
I can write about this today because my nature is to grumble and complain. I've struggled with this my whole life, yet God has been gracious in helping me recognize negative thought patterns and turn them into patterns of praise.
If you feel bound by a spirit of ungratefulness, here are five biblical ways to break free.
1. Acknowledge it as a Serious Problem
Part of being trapped in an ungrateful mindset is that we gloss over how serious it really is. In one of the most sobering Bible passages, 2 Timothy 3:1-2, we read, "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and unholy." This is only part of a passage that goes on to say we should "have nothing to do with such people." (Yikes!)
When I look at my own tendency toward ungratefulness, I am immediately convinced there must be a better way. And you know what? There is. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Acknowledging that ungratefulness is not part of God's will for our lives is the first step in breaking free from it. The good news is God is our help. As David prayed in Psalm 51, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Let our prayer be like David's as we ask the Lord to create in us a pure heart, renew our Spirit, and restore the joy of our salvation. These are wonderful things to be grateful for!
2. Realize That it Does Affect Others
It's easy to believe our sin struggles only affect us. But any sin left unchecked will eventually seep into the lives of others - especially those we're closest to.
In my book, Scarves of White: Replacing Our Issues with the Covering of Christ, I share my personal struggle with persistent anger. I was a young mom who was overwhelmed and didn't handle things well.
One day, I overheard my three-year-old playing with his action figures and having them say to one another, "My mom is mean and mad!" When I heard this, my heart broke. My sin issue had been affecting those I loved most, and I knew something had to change.
We can break free from a spirit of ungratefulness when we realize how it's affecting others. This might include:
-Negatively influencing our kids
-Making our spouses feel like they can't do anything right
-Causing others to avoid us
-Being known as the pessimist in the family
The moment you recognize how your ungratefulness is negatively affecting other people, you can decide to take action. It will take some intentionality on your part, but the Holy Spirit will help you break free.
3. Declare That it Doesn't Define You
Often, when we believe we cannot change something about ourselves, we allow it to define us. We start to believe it's just who we are. But nothing could be further from the truth.
You and I were created in the image of God, in all righteousness and holiness. Our grumbling spirits do not align with His Spirit, Who lives in us. Once we declare ungratefulness to be a false notion of who we are, we can move past it into who we were made to be.
What does God say about you, my friend? Who did He create you to be? Declare today that the Spirit of ungratefulness has no place in your life. The words "pessimist" or "complainer" do not define you. Only God's covering through Jesus Christ defines who you are and who you were meant to be. Stand on your true identity today and watch the chains of ungratefulness fall away.
4. Reverse the Way You Think
There's a lot of talk about mindset today, which is the way we think and believe. And while most of the world views it from a psychological perspective, there is a biblical perspective that makes perfect sense. Here are a few verses that address our mindset:
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)
A spirit of ungratefulness doesn't stand a chance when it comes to the truth of God's Word! By meditating on these passages, we can reverse the way we think and overcome patterns of negativity. Remember, the Bible is living, active, and powerful enough to change us from the inside out.
5. Remember the Old Hymn
You might remember singing an old hymn called "Count Your Blessings." According to Hymnary.org, the song was written by Johnson Oatman in 1897.
Verse one says:
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
The thought of counting your blessings in the face of ungratefulness might sound simplistic, but it's one of the fastest ways out of a negative cycle. By naming aloud the things God has done for you, you're chasing away feelings of discontentment and replacing those emotions with gratitude and praise.
My friend, we cannot out-thank the Lord. His mercies are new every morning, and His blessings are too numerous to count. From running water under the tap to the miraculous healing of a loved one - and every blessing in between - we have a multitude of things to be grateful for.
Break free today from a spirit of ungratefulness and live in the freedom you have in Christ. His Spirit lives in you and transforms you more and more into His likeness. Declare that this "personal" problem does not define you any longer, nor does it have any influence on your loved ones. Before long, you'll be the one who praises the Lord in every situation. And I don't know about you, but that sounds like freedom to me.