Grateful or Ungrateful

November 3, 2021 | Darrin Simpson

Grateful or Ungrateful?

If you’ve been around a teenager for any length of time, ungrateful is a word that could describe the disposition of many. I use teenagers because it’s an easy example, but in an odd, yet true fashion, we’ve grown to see and understand a teen’s ungrateful position and accept it. It’s ok to be ungrateful as a teenager. Yikes. 

Let’s reason for a minute. Many don’t pay bills or balance a budget. Most don’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders, though sometimes they respond as if they do. They have the potential to be privileged. Clean laundry magically ends up on their bed. They simply have to put it away. Let’s be honest, many times they can’t even accomplish that! Things continue to be done for them. For all they know, food is easy to make, dishes do themselves, cleaning isn’t necessary, hygiene is subjective, money grows on trees, and life as they know it revolves around them. But it’s hard to blame a teen for being ungrateful if they’ve never had to be grateful for something. It’s easy to understand how they can miss those moments to appreciate all we do for them because they don’t know what it takes to do those things.   

What's missing? Look at mainstream culture and you’ll find gratefulness to be lacking everywhere. We live in a performance-based world where striving for the next best thing is always the target. Add to that the consumer mindset and it’s a setup for failure. “Keeping up with the Jones” will always hinder a grateful heart because what you have is never enough. As adults, it’s showing us that we ourselves may have never learned the habits of a grateful heart.  

When I look at scripture, I see an easy example—Jonah. Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh. He was to show up to this massive city, deliver a message, “40 days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed.” (Jonah 3:4) Jonah didn’t want to go. Though he ultimately went, it wasn't before he decided to jeopardize the lives of others, waste God’s time, and live inside a large fish for a hot minute before he got there. 

Once Jonah got to Nineveh he did as God asked, but in the end, God had compassion on the people of the city. Jonah 3:10 says, “When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction of had threatened.” Jonah did a huge thing for the kingdom, but his response was less than stellar. Jonah 4:1 says, “This change of plans greatly upset Jonah and he became very angry.” 

I wish I had pages to help digest this because there are a ton of outside pieces at play in this, but I’ll stick to simplicity.  

The first thing we learn is that God will still use us even when we are ungrateful, just like he did with Jonah. We really don’t deserve it, but I’m grateful for it! Let’s backtrack to the teenagers. If you have one or know one, you can breathe a sigh of relief. God will still use them, even when they are ungrateful.  

The second thing I see in the story of Jonah is that even when we run from God, He still pursues us! We serve a God who knows we aren’t perfect, but in our sin, our brokenness, and in our lack of pursuit of Him, He still pursues us. When we know what to do yet choose not to do it, He still loves us through it! 

The third thing, and probably the one we hate the most—God calls out the ungrateful in us. We serve a God who won’t leave us in our ungratefulness. I wish we had a better ending to the story of Jonah. I wish we could see Jonah’s response to God, but we do see God’s response to Jonah. Jonah 4:4 says, “The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?””  

God called out the ungratefulness in Jonah’s heart and ultimately showed him that he was only grateful when it benefited him (Jonah 4:4-10). We can learn a valuable lesson from this as we look at our own hearts and help guide the hearts of our teenagers. 

So, don’t be like Jonah, right? It’s easier said than done, but change is possible. It requires a 'retraining' of your heart. Gratitude is a quality you have to choose. It is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation, and the ability to return kindness.  

The best place to start is God’s Word to help us develop habits of a grateful heart—habits that go beyond the month of turkey and mashed potatoes, habits that become foundational in helping our students do the same. These are great reminders of who we are called to be and how we are called to live! 

Philippians 2:3; Matthew 7:12; Galatians 5:22-23; Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 12:2-3; Philippians 4:4-9 


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