It is amazing how easily and quickly we complain. Although I think this tendency is probably ingrained in the fallen version of our human nature, I think in modern times we have become the biggest complainers of all.
This is largely because we have come to expect that everything is supposed to be peachy and work instantly. And if it does not we are not only indignant, some of us even talk of lawsuits. Let the slightest thing go wrong, and we are so easily sullen and resentful, “How dare I have to suffer inconvenience, or wait, or that something is not in immediate supply.” Our high expectations easily breed resentment and anger.
I suppose in some ways it is just silly, but the more embarrassing and even dark aspect of it is when we compare the trivial things we have to suffer in the modern West, to the real suffering of others. While I vent over the fact that I had to reboot my stupid computer (again!), there is a very poor woman in a war-torn region wondering which end of the potato she and her children will have for lunch, and which end for dinner, and that is all they have. I wince and in my pathetic lack of patience and cry out, “Lord make me more grateful and generous!”
St. Paul, in yesterday’s (Sunday) epistle links gratitude and joy: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks (1 Thess 5:16). Paul said something similar is Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7)
It’s just so important to cultivate a deep gratitude to God for all that we have. We are so very blessed. It is just downright silly and embarrassing how quickly we complain. And because we are ungrateful, our hearts lose their joy, we become negative, sullen, bored and just plain irritating. Would that we would cultivate gratitude more, we might be a more joyful culture, appreciative of live.
When I, like most children, would complain my father would often say to me, “Listen, you’re just spoiled. You better thank your lucky stars you weren’t born a hundred years ago. In the old days things were tough all over!” And frankly, they were tough, (and still are in many parts of the world). Before 1900, the things we take wholly for granted, and would not dream of living without, were all but unknown: hot and cold running water, indoor toilets, electricity, air conditioning, cars, spacious homes, lots of privacy, telephones, T.Vs, radios, and every form of electronic gadgetry.
We are blessed beyond measure. Again, as my father often said, “We don’t know how good we have it.”
In recent years the Lord has really put it on my heart to be more grateful. I spend a greater part of my personal prayer just resting in gratitude for God’s graces, and the endless blessings he bestows. Such a prayer discipline not only gives me greater joy, but has also helped me to be more generous and concerned for the poor. God has been so good to me and I have much for which to be grateful.
Somehow I am sure my earthly father, now deceased, would be pleased to hear this. One of his life-lessons has really struck home with me. 21st century America has its annoyances, but they are nothing like what our ancestors endured, neither are they close to the burdens others in this world currently endure. For all our blessings, we ought to give thanks, sing praise, and share generously with those who have real burdens, things really worth complaining about.
This video is a wonderfully funny video by a comedian who laughs with us at our tendency to complain about the littlest things in the presence of miracles. You may have seen the video (it has 8 million hits) but I have taken it here and edited out a few (mild) profanities. I hope you’ll have time to watch this brief video, it’s a real hoot, with a powerful message, as a mirror, of sorts, is held up before us.