The Best Place to Give Up Grumbling

When’s the last time you spontaneously stopped, turned your attention heavenward, and said, “Thank you”?

Songwriter Andrew Peterson has a song that explores a similar question. The song catalogs some of life’s good gifts — the sunrise, beauty, springtime, children, love, forgiveness — and asks, “Don’t you want to thank someone for this?”

Of course we want to. But whether we do it or not is another matter.

Peterson is perceptive. There are always a hundred reasons and more to be grateful. Yet we often focus on reasons not to be grateful. So instead of being defined by gratitude, God’s people give way to grumbling, and our thoughts and words are as discontent as our surrounding unbelieving world. What we need is a regularly scheduled restoration of our priorities. Thankfully, Sunday morning comes once a week.

Fuel for Gratitude

A loss of gratitude is a loss of sight. You know the feeling: you can’t see past today or beyond yourself, and the immediate burdens are more than you can bear. The week is busy, and your world consists only of what’s right in front of you. But then Sunday comes.

The best place to address your ingratitude is your local church. These weekly worship services — gatherings of the grateful — train us to see things rightly.

How does worship address our ingratitude? If a lack of thankfulness is the result of spiraling into ourselves, then corporate worship spins us out in the opposite direction:

  • We pray, lifting our eyes to him who helps us (Psalm 121:1).
  • We sing, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
  • We confess our sins, looking to the cross to see the depth of the Father’s love (1 John 3:1).
  • We hear the word, which calls us to set our gaze on things above (Colossians 3:1–3; Psalm 119:15).
  • We celebrate the Lord’s Supper, where we see the gospel rehearsed (1 Corinthians 11:23–26).
  • We fellowship, looking to the needs and interests of others (Philippians 2:3).

In other words, corporate worship lifts our eyes away from ourselves and turns them to Jesus. It’s an opportunity to remember what we have received in Christ. And when we contrast what we have received with what we deserve, we inevitably respond, “Thank you.”

Each week, as we participate in worship, our hearts are tuned to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and we begin to find fuel for thanksgiving all around us.

When the Faithful Are Grateful

When we grow in gratitude, we aren’t the only ones who benefit. The apostle Paul says,

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14–15)

A grateful life is a compelling life, and grateful people are a living apologetic for God’s goodness. Romans 1:21 describes those who don’t know God as those who “did not . . . give thanks to him.” A mark of those who suppress the truth is that they’re not grateful, and they don’t know who ultimately deserves their gratitude.

Shouldn’t there be a stark contrast in the lives of those who do know God? Shouldn’t our lives display a joyful and humble awareness of how outrageously good God has been to us? This isn’t a call for chipper, bland, slap-a-smile-on positivity. Nobody buys that. Neither is this a call to ignore life’s realities. We have real reasons for sorrow, and we experience real pain.

Instead, this is a call to sober-minded, awed gratitude — what G.K. Chesterton calls “happiness doubled by wonder.” At our best, our lives serve as an invitation to others to ask themselves, in Peterson’s words, “Don’t you want to thank someone for this?”

We want the world to know the answer to Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 4:7, when he asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Christians know that the answer is nothing. We bring nothing to the table but empty hands that are open to God’s mercy.

A Dose of Sunday-Morning Serum

We cannot perfectly articulate our gratitude for all that God is and has done for us. And our lives will never be as compelling as we’d like; our complaints and grumbles bubble up to the surface more easily than we want.

That’s why we need Sunday morning. We desperately need to lift our eyes together every week. Our hearts require the reminder of what our sin deserves and just how much Christ has done for us.

So we get out of bed again on Sunday morning, while the world sleeps. And as we worship, as we lift our eyes to say, “Thank you,” God will surely grant us the grace we need for another week of loving him, serving him, and depending on him.

is the pastor of worship at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary. He and his wife, Anna, have two daughters and one son.