And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.Exodus 16:2-4
How are you doing today? Me? I’m just OK. But I’m thankful for it. Today we’re going to skip the story and illustration because God’s provided it in the history of his people, so let’s get straight to the heart of this matter of the heart. A critical spirit cannot live in a thankful heart. It just can’t. In different seasons of my life, I have struggled greatly with this. But let me tell you a secret that has helped me become more thankful: start rooting for other people. No, you don’t have to turn off your mind to the things that are wrong about a person or how they are living their life. You don’t have to stop being discerning, just root for people to succeed and stop seeing yourself as the answer to their lack of excellence or success.
It goes like this: someone else is doing something that you think should be better. And you think you can fix it, either by correcting them or directing someone else to fix them. Sometimes you might even think you could do it better; that would fix it and make you feel better too; win/win! But what happens when someone refuses your correction or it’s not your place to direct the fixing? What if you don’t get the opportunity to do it better? Worse, what if people think you can’t do it better? How do you deal? Probably with grumbling and complaint.
The problem with when I’m the person that always notices what’s wrong and/or thinks I can fix it is that I am rarely thankful. I know this from experience. And complaint is the root of unthankfulness. After all, things can always be better, right? Why not at least ask for something better? But in the pursuit of good to great we miss the joy and opportunity to be thankful for just OK. An OK movie, an OK meal, and an OK dessert is usually a recipe for unthankfulness.
The Bible ends our story saying that “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” (Exodus 16:35) God loves his people so much, he’ll give them forty years of just OK to test and train his people to trust him and be thankful for his provision.
Here are a few more…
Questions to ponder
Are you more of an encourager or a critic? Between the two, which do you think comes off as more loving to the recipient of the encouragement or criticism?
What would happen if we lost all critical thinking; if the Internet was stripped of product reviews and opinion pieces? What problems would that cause?
Do you agree with the premise that the root of unthankfulness is complaint? If so, what do you think the difference is between criticism and complaint? How are they similar or different?
How would your life be different if you were inwardly and outwardly thankful for things that were just OK?
Ask God right now, “do I need to be more encouraging or more critical? More driven for excellence or more thankful for OK?” Be open to his Spirit.