If you’re new to this little trick, don’t overdo it. Start with little gripes about small disturbances. But if you’re well practiced, you might as well jump into one of the more advanced methods of ruining yourself, like envy.
The best enviers can take any good thing that happens, such as waking up in the morning, and find fault with it. But even better, they can reject goodness in their own life as well as others’, so that blessing becomes occasion for cursing.
Like I said, this is an great way to wreck yourself. What’s more, it’s proven. Paul highlights the method in Romans, speaking of those who refused to “glorify [God] as God, nor were thankful but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (1.21). If you’ve read the rest of the passage, you know it doesn’t go well for these thankless people.
In chapter six of his Great Catechism , Gregory of Nyssa explains the corrupting power of ingratitude and envy by pointing to their most wily practitioner. Satan, says Gregory, “closed his eyes to the good and the ungrudging like one who in the sunshine lets his eyelids down upon his eyes and sees only darkness. . . .”
If you are less inclined to go the way of the people in Romans 1 or the devil himself, then gratitude is the ticket. “[W]hen you perform your labor,” said the desert father Barsanuphius of Gaza to an inquirer,
give thanks to God and pray to him. Indeed this is what is meant by: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5.18). . . . [W]hether we find what we want or not, we should offer prayer and thanks to God.
Instead of doing what seems natural, complaining or grumbling, do what seems unnatural (but what is really the most natural) and ask how might God be using it for our salvation. The bad traffic? The difficult client? The unruly child? The shipwrecked ambition? The tiff with the spouse? The dissatisfaction with our own attitude? All of it.
Sometimes we get consolation, other times consternation. But God is gracious and loving through it all, softening our hearts, teaching us humility, and pointing us to repentance. It’s all a gift, so let’s be grateful.
Question: What hard thing are you facing that God wants you to be thankful for?