“If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings” (Bing Crosby, “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”).
I’m not sure exactly why this song just popped into my head, but I am very glad it did. I recently realized that I’ve been complaining a lot, and was displeased with that discovery. No one wants to be a Negative Nellie—or at least, I don’t want to be one.
So I wondered, why? What has changed inside of me to make me become such a complainer? If I did not make a decision to start complaining, then it follows that the negativity and ungratefulness pouring out of my mouth is an outpouring of what is inside of me. As Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Really, what have I to complain about? I have some very nice, sturdy walls and a roof to shelter me, plenty of clothes to cover me, food to meet my needs, a loving family and many wonderful friends, I’m able to get an education and learn about things that intrigue me, I have a reliable car to drive—I mean, I’m even able to read the Bible on my own.
Side note: Have you ever stopped to think about what an incredible opportunity it is to read the Bible? I hadn’t until recently. For more than a thousand years, any written word was very hard to come by, because it had to be hand-copied. Then the Bible was in Latin, so only the most educated could read it—and this was a time when, if you weren’t nobility or clergy, you were probably entirely illiterate. The most exposure you would have to the Bible was at church services, which were in Latin and which you, probably an uneducated peasant, would not understand a word of.
Then the printing press was invented in Europe (it had been invented in China long before then, but the technology had not yet spread), so literature could be mass produced. The masses were stirring in displeasure at the widespread corruption and lethargy of the clergy, so when a professor at a university in Germany nailed 95 proposals for academic debate (Luther’s 95 Theses) to the castle door and they were later translated into German, a Revolution was sparked. Luther translated the New Testament into German, others followed in his steps by translating the Bible into other vernacular languages, etc., etc., and now, here we are, about five centuries later, with the Word of the Living God in plentiful supply so that we (who are blessed to be literate) can read it any time we want.
How can I complain when I am this blessed? The only explanation is that I forget. I forget the riches of God’s mercy. I forget that He loved me first. I forget that I do not deserve to be called a child of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a co-heir with Christ. I forget that I was dead, but now, praise the Lord!, I am alive.
One of my friends was leading a Bible study recently and explained that she always starts her devotionals off with prayer and then thanking God for all the joys of the past day. That really struck me and made me think. This past day, what happened that was a joy? So very, very many little things. I tend to just take them for granted, but that is a sign of something very, very wrong inside my heart. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. He chose to give us new birth through the word of truth”—hallelujah! (James 1:17-18)
C.S. Lewis once wrote that every choice we make changes the “central thing” of who we are. Throughout our whole lives, with every teeny tiny choice, we are either turning the central part of us, the part that really, truly is us, into a creature who is like God or who is like hell (Mere Christianity). I think this is true. And if it is true, then something as simple as choosing whether to complain or rejoice is also part of this.
What if I, rather than sinning by worrying and rejecting the blessings of God as not good enough, chose to praise Him instead with thanksgiving? What if I took seriously the command, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)? How much more would God be able to transform my inner being into His image! What a testimony to the not-yet-ransomed-in-Christ the joy of a Christian could be!
Brothers and sisters, will you accept this challenge with me, to make every effort to thank God each day for every blessing He pours out on us?
Let us, as the song extorts us to, “count [our] blessings instead of sheep.”