Q: My aunt claims to be a Christian and I'm sure she is, but she's always complaining and never seems happy about anything. In fact, her family jokes that the only thing that makes her happy is complaining. Why is she like this? Aren't Christians supposed to be joyful? — Mrs. C.G.
A: Yes they are and one reason is because they know that this life — with all its imperfections and troubles — isn't all there is, but ahead of us is heaven. Why, then, should we spend our time complaining? The Bible says, "We boast in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).
I suspect we've all known people like this and admittedly they're not pleasant to be around. But sometimes we need to look beneath the surface, so to speak, and find out why they are this way.
Sometimes it's because they've experienced much unhappiness in life, and no matter what happens, they tend to measure life by what it lacks instead of what it includes that's good. Or occasionally I've wondered if someone was complaining just to get attention.
You may never discover why your aunt is this way, but that shouldn't keep you from praying for her, asking God to bless her so abundantly that she won't be able to find anything to complain about. Pray too that God will give you an opportunity to confront her — lovingly but directly — about her negative attitude.
Most of all, urge her to find her joy in Christ and in the promises of his word. Life this side of heaven will never be perfect, but when we know Christ, we know we belong to him and he fills us with his love.
The Bible says, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault'" (Philippians 2:14-15).
Q: You'll probably laugh at this, but one of my biggest problems after Christmas is getting our children to write thank-you notes. Our oldest says he doesn't see any reason for it because the Bible doesn't say anything about thank-you notes. I've told him to do it anyway, but can you settle this for us? — Mrs. J. McK.
A: Saying "thank you" to someone for a gift they've given us isn't just a matter of common courtesy. It's an expression of gratitude for their generosity. To fail to thank them not only shows thoughtlessness on our part but expresses a self-centered attitude — and that is a sin.
One of the best examples of a "thank you note" in the Bible is the Apostle Paul's letter to the Christians in Philippi. Although they weren't wealthy, they sacrificially helped Paul during a time of great financial need on his part, caused by his imprisonment for his faith.
In response, he wrote to thank them for their generosity and to encourage them in their faith. He wrote, "It was good of you to share in my troubles.... I am amply supplied, now that I have received ... the gifts you sent." (Philippians 4:14,18).
Repeatedly, the Bible encourages us to have an attitude of gratitude — toward God and others. Admittedly, it isn't always easy to get this across to our children, but it's important to make the effort. Otherwise they may grow up unconcerned about others and ungrateful toward God. How would they feel if no one showed appreciation for a gift they've given?
Yes, encourage your children to thank others for their gifts. But most of all encourage them — both by your words and your example — to thank God for the greatest gift of all: the gift of his son, Jesus Christ.
(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM; or visit the web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.: http://www.billygraham.org.)