How to wreck your life

How to wreck your life
Bradmcmahon, Flickr

If you’re looking to get off on the wrong foot this week, start with ingratitude. It’s easy, really. Everything we have is a gift from God. The trick to ingratitude is to be unthankful for it. The job, the spouse, the bills, the house, the kids, the coworkers, the car—all you have to do is grumble and complain about them.

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?

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  • Fran

    Interesting that I’m here this morning, contemplating just this question. I received very mixed feedback on a 5-page probe I submitted to my “Novel In Progress” group. In 2 weeks I’ll be submitting 25 pages for a full critique. This is way harder than I imagined it would be. I am called to Psalm 142, crying out to the LORD, praying for his mercy and guidance. I will add a word of thanks because I trust him to lead me. The path I’m on, as hard as it is, well, it’s the path I want to be on so I should be grateful.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Joel J. Miller

      That’s great. Thanks for sharing your difficulties. Putting your words out for others is always risky.

  • Gail Hyatt

    The hard things in life that I’m facing have to do with friends. The complaining and grumbling come out as I consider how other’s poor choices effect those around them, me included—of course, :-). Mostly I feel sadness, though.

    But as I’ve struggled with judging or not judging them, I am thankful that God has used these situations to help me see the plank/log in my own eye and focus on eradicating it and I’m thankful that I am learning what real love can look like.

    P.S. I wrote on a loosely-related topic, a while back, here: