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From Grumbling to Gratitude


At the finish line of a marathon you see runners ending the race with a joyful smile on their face, proud of their accomplishment, moving to find their family and give them hugs. They've wisely set their pace and completed the race.


There's other runners, though. Limply trudging across the line, weary and exhausted, crumbling into a heap.


I handed in my last research paper. I clicked send, and thought, "ugh, finally!" sinking back in my chair, breathing out a weary sigh. Fatigue set in like a 10lb weight plunked into the pool; I was done in and my attitude showed it.


Having completed the marathon of assignments and readings, I was the second runner

at the finish line.


A couple weeks later, I was reading through the book of Ezra, narrating rebuilding the temple. The project was enormous and difficult. The returned Israelites faced opposition and persecution. They gave their time, resources and efforts at a great cost to themselves and when the time came to dedicate the temple and celebrate Passover, they did so with much joy (Ezra 6:22).


Here's where I realized I'd missed the mark.


I’d grumbled about my work, about having to write as summer began, wishing the document would magically read 10,000 words (complete with footnotes and citations). Annoyance mounted and my response wasn't one of joy but of frustration.


I'd lost sight of my purpose. Viewing my coursework merely as tasks to be completed rather than as activities for my formation, to be done for the glory of God and the good of others.


Daily, we face tasks that can both begin and end with groans of discontent or dissatisfaction. When we're in charge, the problems fall to us, difficult situations are all directed our way. We're put out because it's our issue to deal with.


Or when our spouse is gone and we've been looking after the kids on our own. It's late in the day, we've already refereed more times than we can count when another eruption resounds and we groan at having to blow the whistle once again.


Resentment can be subtle. We may not notice the signs as it creeps in, but undoubtedly what's brewing in our hearts pours out of our mouths and seeps into our attitude.


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Ps 19:14)


The difference in responses when I came to my finish line and when the Israelites completed the temple was the worship factor. They remembered all God had done to bring them this far, how he routed their adversaries, protected and provided for them all along the way.


As I slogged through research and footnotes, the Lord had been at work too, I just hadn't remembered to pull my gaze away upward.


Here's two questions to ask when we're steeping a grumbling heart.


WHO am I serving?

Clean laundry and food on the table nourishes your family. Lesson planning enables your students to learn well. Sitting at your work desk facing emails for customers, you're reflecting your business' hospitality.


We remember Jesus washing the disciples feet as one who came to serve rather than be served. The apostle Paul who considered himself less so that others would be more.


“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:13)


Opportunities to love abound in our day to day. What if "I have to..." turns to "I get to...." keeping our people at the forefront of our minds and the recipients of love from our willing hands.


WHY am I serving?

What we know and believe about our work has a resounding impact on hearts. Maybe you don’t consider your work ministry, but it is for the reason God has called you to it and placed you there for the purpose of serving him.


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:17)


He has prepared good works for us to do (Eph 2:10) and gives us His word that we are equipped to do them (2 Tim 3:16-17). Yes even the hard and menial tasks can be done for the glory of God.


Now What?

After visiting the words of Ezra, I went to the Lord in prayer of confession and repentance. I know the Lord had held me fast through the thousands of pages in readings and words typed. He showered me with grace in understanding and insight. When I began scrolling through all the ways He’d been with me, I couldn’t help but worship Him for all He’d done.


Adopting a new perspective on God's purpose for your life won't change your circumstances. You still face challenges and stressful situations, but when you remember who and why you're doing what you're doing, your heart will be prepared to respond in joyful obedience.


So, when you look at your to-do list today, consider the who and why behind each task to help turn what may be grumbling into gratitude.

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