Counting Blessings Instead of Complaints

by April Newbell

After recently losing my husband, I thought about all the things I would now miss doing with him. I complained about the plans and dreams that would never come to fruition. Then, it occurred to me that I was focused only on the negative.

While complaining about my loss, I wasn’t able to see all the blessings we had shared, like twenty-seven years of marriage, and having sold our business to retire three months earlier. I wasn’t thinking about our time spent together during those final months—just the two of us enjoying life without outside distractions. God already knew what was coming so He gave us that precious time together.

We can’t hold both complaints and blessings in the same hand.

Don’t we all complain about things—not just big ones but little ones too? And we forget about the blessings? We complain that it’s too hot or it’s too cold; there’s too much rain or we need rain; we’re hungry (or if you’re like me, you’re hangry) or we’re stuffed. In doing so, we may fail to see how blessed we are with ways to control the temperature in our homes or water the lawn when needed. We may not appreciate the food we have to eat. Not everyone is this blessed. We might spend more time counting complaints than blessings.

We aren’t the only ones guilty of that. The children of Israel did a lot of complaining too, even after God sent Moses to rescue them out of the hands of the Egyptians. They seemed to quickly forget that they had been delivered from their 430 years of bondage in Egypt.

And the people of Israel also wept again and said, Oh that we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” Numbers 11:4-6 ESV

The children of Israel forgot that God had brought them out of oppression. They forgot how God saved them from Pharaoh and the Egyptian army at the parting of the Red Sea. They forgot all the promises of God to bring them into a land overflowing with milk and honey.

It’s easy to read about the children of Israel and shake our heads at their actions. Yet we are not so different. Modern times but the same attitude of complaining.

Instead, may we dwell on God’s promises and His blessings.

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, holding fast to the word of life. Philippians 2:14–16 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: April Newbell is a retired office manager for a family medicine office and an aspiring writer. She has previously published two devotionals on christiandeovtions.us. She enjoys writing devotions to which everyone can relate and apply to their lives. April and her husband, along with their dog, live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Join the conversation: What blessings are you thankful for today?

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Shine As Lights

by Jessica Van Roekel

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, holding fast to the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16, ESV

The starry sky pierces the night like pin pricks in a lampshade. In the winter months, Orion marches across the dark curtain like a moving picture show. The North star glimmers and gleams as a beacon for travelers.

I stand in awe that God hung each star in its place and gave it its name (Psalm 147:4). The stars remind me that light overcomes darkness, and I remember that I have the same power within me.

But I must confess that I struggle to shine. My personal ambitions for glory and my desire for God’s glory wage a little war inside my heart. Because I struggle with my motives, sometimes it’s easier for me to not shine at all. But then I miss being part of God’s story in the world, so since it’s a story I want a part in, I keep wrestling.

God’s light inside us pierces the darkness of those around us who need it the most. Will we shine like stars?

The apostle Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always…. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things… and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4, 8-9 ESV).

In Philippians 2:14-16, Paul reminds us that apart from God, people live in spiritual darkness. Followers of Christ must shine as lights in the world so that we reflect God’s light and show others the way to him.

Will we complain or rejoice? Will we grumble or lay down our rights?

Our attitudes toward everything we do impacts the way others see or don’t see God. For example, I don’t like cleaning sink drains; the smell makes me wrinkle my nose and curl my lips. But, with three girls in the house, this task needs to be done. I can show Jesus’ light to my family by choosing to do this and other things I don’t like without a grumbling heart.

Stardom comes in servanthood. Not from receiving the most “likes” in our social media pages. Not by being the most popular person in the room or the cool mom. It comes from doing what needs to be done, whether in front of people or behind the scenes, without complaining. We sparkle as we serve God with a willing and happy heart—brightening the world around us.

This article brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Jessica is a worship leader, speaker, and writer who writes at www.welcomegrace.com giving hope-filled inspiration addressing internal hurts in the light of God’s transforming grace. She believes that through Christ our personal histories don’t have to define our present or determine our future. Jessica lives in a rural setting with her husband and family. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Join the conversation: How do you try to shine like the stars?

Just Around the Next Bend

by Pam Farrel

Do all things without grumbling or disputing… Philippians 2:14

As Covid lingers on, I sometimes pause to reflect on the life lessons that God pre-planned for all our lives. It can help us navigate this pandemic that appears to have no end in sight. 

 As youth ministers, we led a bike trip from Northern California, along the ocean to Santa Barbara. The scenery was breath-takingly beautiful, but rigorous: a series of rolling mountains that escalated ever higher and steeper in elevation.  We leaders knew this could be quite physically challenging to most of the students, so we designed shirts to have the week’s motivational motto on the back and shoulders, so the cyclists could see it bold before them on the rider in front of them:  

Nothing’s too tough to make me complain!

That phrase capsulized Paul’s command: “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 ESV).

The best way to integrate truth is to live it out. However, while reading a verse is easy, living a verse can be  HARD!

On this arduous bike trip, I was hot, weary, and faint, (but NOT complaining out loud!).  My repeated question to my co-leader spouse was, “How close are we to the finish?”

With optimism, Bill, would reply, “Closer than it was. Perhaps just around the next bend.”  Then we would sing some worship song as we peddled up, up the endless steep grade. Finally, at the mountain peak we paused for a majestic moment, with a bird’s eye view of the ocean stretching out, wrapping us in 180 degree beauty. Sweet victory!

But my most lasting inspiration of this trip was forged by a few of the students. Before one of the narrower bridges, we loaded the bikers on the bus and their bikes in a trailer a truck was pulling. The trailer came unhooked from the truck and banged into the guard rail sending three bikes and a couple suitcases over the rail, down into the Pacific Ocean—never to be seen again!

The amazing attitude of these three teens was stellar! They DID NOT COMPLAIN! Most adults would have caved and whined but not these three brave hearts!  One of the reasons they were able to keep hold of their positive attitude in face of this unexpected loss was all the rest of the youth group swiftly rallied to meet their needs. There were just over 50 teens on this “Nothing’s Too Tough to Make ME Complain” tour—and the vast majority are still walking with Jesus faithfully now forty years later. Today more than 75% of that group hold leadership positions in churches, community groups, mission organizations, pastors, counselors, government officials, and non-profit leaders. We were all transformed by this stalwart commitment to praise instead of pout.

Years later, we began our family, and vowed to raise children who could maintain a sense of strength and courage no matter what life might send their way. We hung a six-foot wooden sign carved into it; “Though shalt not whine”.  If the boys were tempted to moan and whine over chores, mere inconveniences, or minor setbacks, we just pointed to the sign. When real pressures and traumas entered their lives, we would gather as a family to pray Scripture over that son often under that same sign.  We would acknowledge feelings, process them with an attitude of faith, then stand strong on the promises of the Word. The boys took this “Can do” attitude into their futures. Now as leaders of their families and communities, these young men help others cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Begin your own Powerful Praise journal. Note verses that have carried you in the past, turn them into memes, verses to study deeper, and Bible art to help you navigate your future LOOKING AT WHAT YOU can DO, NOT WHAT YOU CAN’T.  I daily remind myself, as I reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, meditate on His promises, God will be the power to keep peddling forward.

About the author: Pam Farrel is the Co-Director of Love-Wise, author of 50+ books and co-author of the Discovering the Bible Creative Bible Study series. Go to Love-Wise.com to download your free 30 Day Infectious Joy Bible devotional .

Join the conversation: How do you keep from complaining?

Stop Talking to Me

by Donna Nabors @DonnaNabors1

“Stop talking to me.” This is a sentence I hear from my husband at least once a week.

Let me explain. We have a great marriage, full of humor. My husband’s quick wit tends to characterize our interactions. Invariably, he will say something that leaves a wide-open spot for a witty comeback. So I give one right back to him, and then he often says, “Stop talking to me.”

An example of our banter would go something like this: I complain, “My tendinitis is acting up, and my feet hurt tonight.” Without missing a beat, my husband quips, “It’s because of the sin in your life.”

My automatic response, “He sleeps next to me every night.”

After a brief pause, he retorts, “Don’t talk to me.”

Same thing with other platitudes, like: “God is teaching you patience.”

My response: “That’s why He gave me you.”

Then, “Stop talking to me.”

Thankfully God never says, “Stop talking to me” even in jest. But I think sometimes He does shake His head at us, and maybe even sees the humor, if not sadness, in our responses to life.

The Israelites were an unfaithful bunch. God delivered them from Egypt. He parted the Red Sea, He provided water and food. He met their every need. Yet when they spied out the land He had promised them, they focused on the negative. They confirmed a land flowing with milk and honey; yet in their eyes, the possible blessings were outweighed by the size of the people and cities indwelling the land. Instead of trusting God, they doubted in His ability to handle the giants.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However… (Numbers 13:27-28 ESV).

So, they were left to wander in the desert for 40 years. They tested God’s patience over and over. But Moses stood in the gap and petitioned God on their behalf. He listened to God’s voice.

Thousands of years later, not much has changed. The Israelites might have earned a bad rap for not trusting God, but they have nothing on me.

I don’t even face real giants. I live in a nice home, drive a good car, and never worry where my next meal is coming from. I have a great job, my own room at home to write, and a husband supportive of my writing. However, I complain I don’t have time to write because of my day job. I complain because my writing room is upstairs, and I’m too tired to climb those stairs after work.

While both are sometimes true, the reality is God has abundantly provided for my writing needs. Like the Israelites, I let my complaints outweigh my blessings. My complaints and excuses are another way of saying to God, “Stop talking to me,” when what I need more than anything is to hear His voice.

It’s tantamount to telling God I don’t trust Him.

Thankfully He forgives and restores me when my trust falters. I am so thankful for His faithfulness, even when I am not faithful to Him. I am thankful for Jesus Christ, who paid the price for my sin. And for the Holy Spirit, Who stands in the gap, petitioning for me. He reminds me of my blessings and calls me to listen.

Lord, please don’t stop talking to me. I need you.

“Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10 NASB

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Stop Talking to Me – thoughts on #GodsLove from @DonnaNabors1 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Donna Nabors HeadshotAbout the author: Donna Nabors is a wife, mom, grandma, and follower of Christ focused on filling her spiritual jewelry box. Through disappointments in life, she shares that the treasures from God’s Word are where we find the strength to stand. Donna lives in Texas, and her hobbies include antique shopping and organizing. She often jokes that her life is in an Excel spreadsheet. You can find more about Donna at donnanabors.com.

Donna’s book: Pearls: 5 Essentials for a Richer Prayer Life, outlines five elements that can lead to a richer prayer life. It focuses on how Jesus’ words, “It is better to give than to receive,” relate to prayer. Pearls demonstrates how giving to God through prayer draws you into a closer relationship with Him.