Brandon Reese of the Kingsmen Quartet knows he’s blessed. And if he ever forgets that fact, he can easily look at his beautiful and healthy family, his successful musical career, and his own health to remember.
Even with all these blessings, though, Reese still struggles with the temptation to complain sometimes. That’s an uncomfortable realization he’s faced in recent years as God has been teaching him to look past fleeting frustrations and focus on gratitude.
While opportunities to complain abound—especially as our world recovers from a global pandemic—Reese says there are just as many, if not more, opportunities to be grateful. Realizing this, he says, is the key to transitioning from complaining to contentment.
Why Do We Complain?
Imagine an all-too-real scenario for a moment. Your car breaks down. You pull over to the side of the road to discover you’ve run over a nail and can’t even drive to the nearest gas station let alone the rest of the way home. You call AAA, but it will be hours before an available tow truck can get to you.
What do you?
Possibly what many others would do—call up a friend and vent for 20 minutes.
Reese has faced scenarios like this all too many times. In those moments, he says, “I’ll sit down and think, I’m so aggravated because I ran over that nail and had to buy a new tire—which costs an arm and a leg now. Then I think, You know what? Many people don’t even have a car. …
“Now, I don’t want to put up some false wall. I complain a lot. But after sitting there thinking about it for five to 30 minutes, I think, Why are you doing this?”
There’s a reason it’s so easy to grumble when things go wrong (and even when they don’t). Like any habit, regular complaining trains your brain to keep responding that way to future events.
“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9, ESV).
“Nor grumble, as some of them [the Israelites] did and were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10, ESV).
And finally, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 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).
Choosing Gratitude Over Complaining
One thing Reese has learned to do when he wants to complain is to start thanking Jesus for every blessing. He’s also learned to entrust the outcome of his situation to God and trust that His plan is good no matter what.
“I say this all the time,” Reese says. “If we get a blown tire on the bus or the water pump is leaking or a headlight goes out, we have to stop, and it puts us behind an hour. It’s aggravating. But I just say, ‘You know what? The headlight went out, but maybe God was protecting us from getting in a future wreck.’”
This strategy is different than mere positive thinking, or “positive energy” as some call it. While the latter may be able to help a person shift their perspective, it falls short of a lasting remedy. It also focuses on positivity as the end goal rather than a deeper relationship with God.
As Christians, instead of repeating a positive mantra to ourselves, we can “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV). And when frustrations arise, we can still “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2, ESV).
That’s why today and every day—even when the tour bus breaks down—Reese can honestly say, “I’m just thankful. I just am.”
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