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Chronicles of a Chronic Complainer


Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon


Yes, I’m a card-carying member of The Chronic Complainers Club.

Oh sure, I have had stretches of success in recent years at being mostly thankful, seeing my world for the blessings contained in it, growing in daily gratitude. And I’ve written much about these good things.

But I cannot deny that lately my inner curmudgeon has found me again. My focus has turned toward a few unpleasant circumstances that have been bringing me down. As I’ve fallen into the old trap of dwelling on these negative thoughts, I’ve lost a positive perspective and have become miserable and cranky.

Today I’ve been reminded that being a critic of daily circumstances profits nothing. It initiates a downward spiral of mood and energy, dragging with it not only my own soul but also the heart of anyone within reach of the poisonous negativity.

My dear wife has tried to warn me that Chronic Complainer had moved back in, but of course the Curmudgeon was in no mood to concede.

It took a few texts with a dear friend over the topic of local weather to fully open my eyes to the reality of the attitude I have been cultivating. My friend lives in a region of bountiful lush green forests and rivers…that exist because of bountiful fall, winter, and spring rains. While my friend craves sunshine, she maintains a patient and hopeful vigil for it, and when the clouds break for even a few minutes to reveal temporary rays of sun, or a delicious orange-creamsicle sunrise before a return to plodding rain, she celebrates those brief moments – tasting, savoring, joyfully thanking God for his goodness in creation.


Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park


What a stark contrast to the texts I had been writing her lately. I’d been focusing narrowly on my discomfort with humidity and heat, and my world had shrunk to consist of nothing but my own misery and an obsessive desperation to fix the problem.

But her refusal to play victim during her long dark rainy season suddenly shone like a beacon of light into my own discouragement. I felt hope awaken as I realized that complaining is a choice. I don’t have to be a slave to discouragement. I’ve been granted the power to choose what I focus on. My mindset is up to me.

Hmm, mindset.
Mind. Set.
To set the mind.

Suddenly I’m reminded of the wisdom of an ancient man, a follower of Jesus named Paul, who wanted to encourage a group of new Jesus followers in their attitudes and actions, and so he said,

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

Paul wanted these young Christians to overflow with joy at the excellence and beauty that is their savior Jesus, and to be filled with thankfulness at all the incredible spiritual blessings that were now theirs because of the powerful grace and love of Christ. And he understood that it came about by setting their minds.

Set your mind. Be intentional. Take control of what’s coming into your brain, and focus it on the good.


The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop


In my next blog I’ll delve into a practical everyday way that I hope can effectively set my mind – a tool for enabling the hope-filled, joyful, positive life outlook that pushes the curmudgeon out the door.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my Chronic Complainers Club membership card tucked away in my wallet as a reminder, because I know full well that I’ll be needing to have this talk with myself again…


The Significance of Feeling Insignificant


Canyon Layers After Storm


As far back as I can remember, I have longed to feel that I mattered. To believe that I am somebody. To somehow find, in this crowded world of billions, even a small significance to my existence on planet earth.

To put it more accurately, I’ve been driven by the fear of being insignificant.

This fear propelled my performance in school, in work, and in relationships. And the motivation to matter did not always end well. It took more than four decades of life to begin understanding the complexities behind the drive to be accepted and acknowledged, and thankfully recent years have seen an end to this fear dominating the deep places of my being. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I still desire to live a useful life, to have some value – but it’s not the debilitating desperate pursuit it once was.

Last night as I walked up to the edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of this spectacular natural wonder of our world. The dimensions of this canyon opening up before my eyes my brain could not calculate. Big beyond belief. Swallowed up in these overwhelming visuals, I felt an emotion recognizable, yet also different:

I felt insignificant.


I've visited the Grand Canyon many times but the views still make me gasp in awe

I’ve visited the Grand Canyon many times but still gasp in awe at the views


But this was not the old familiar fear. It was not an emotion of tortuous longing to be somebody. It was instead a wonderfully peaceful feeling overtaking all of me. It was gratitude for being a lowly insignificant human creature, in the face of significant grandeur created by a significant God. It was the freedom and joy of knowing I no longer have to be significant in the measure of the old way, because I have found a significant rest in the One who loves me without condition.

You see, there is another canyon. Its vastness is infinite. Its depth is immeasurable. To walk up to its edge and peer over makes the heart stop in sheer awe. The Grand Canyon is a dried-up creek bed in comparison.

It is the breathtaking canyon of God’s love.

Its mind-boggling swath was carved through the rocky rebellious soil of the human heart by the unstoppable onrushing waters of the grace of Christ. The One who lived and bled and died and conquered and ascended for me, and for all weary earth travelers who simply trust in his kindness.


For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39)

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon

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