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FIRST-PERSON: When we complain

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — “What are you writing about, Mama?” one of my daughters asked innocently as I began working on this piece.

“Complaining,” I replied.

With a concerned look on her face, she said, “Oh. Are you going to name any names?”

While I initially laughed at her response, it reminded me of the broad scope of this problem throughout God’s people, even in my own household and in my own heart.

Despite the trials going on in our country or the severity of the headlines, we as Christian Americans live a relatively easy life, especially compared to our brothers and sisters in Christ who live abroad.

It is this life filled with an abundance of blessings, I believe, that reveals the sin in our own hearts bubbling up as complaining and grumbling.

To some, complaining might seem as innocent as a group of friends sharing their concerns with each other. Concerns, however, if not channeled in the right way, can lead to the fertile soil of discontentment, where complaining takes root and grows deeper and deeper with time.

While we are supposed to share our burdens with each other, the command in Scripture is intended to cause us to pray for and encourage each other through our concerns and burdens.

Complaining, on the contrary, actually does the opposite. When complaining is mentioned in Scripture it is usually paired with grumbling and discord. Therein lies the difference: Sharing our burdens leads to prayer and encouragement; complaining leads to further grumbling and increased discord within the body of Christ.

When God tells us to stop a behavior, He always leads us to fill it with a better action. For example, when the apostle Paul says, “Do everything without grumbling and complaining,” it is within the context of us being light to a dark and corrupt world. In Philippians 2:12-17, Paul charges us to do the work God has called us to do. As we do that work — in obeying His commands — we are showing God’s good pleasure in our lives.

Our obedience to God as we do His will leads us to glorify Him with our lives and actions, which leads to us being a light because the world around us is “crooked and perverse” (verse 15). This is how we are light among the darkness around us.

However, if we complain and grumble, we cannot fulfill God’s will for our lives this way. Our light is dulled by our grumbling mouths and we are no longer visible in the darkness around us. A complaining spirit not only steals our passion to act out God’s will in our lives, but it steals our light to the lost world.

I once thought the simple answer to complaining was becoming more thankful. However, in further studying the Philippians passage about grumbling, thankfulness is not mentioned. Don’t get me wrong; we can always be more thankful for the blessings God has bestowed upon us (Philippians 4:6-7).

But the remedy to a chronic complainer is understanding God’s will in your life and, through obedience to Him, fulfilling that calling for God’s glory. As Paul mentions in Philippians 2:17, we are called to be “poured out as a drink offering” in whatever ministry God has placed us.

Here is a modern-day example of Paul’s charge in Philippians 2: A young mom is overwhelmed by the daily tasks of taking care of her young children. She begins to complain to her husband or friends about the endless dishes or piles of laundry, the lack of sleep or the continual messes. She tries to be thankful but logic makes it difficult to rejoice over another pile of laundry.

Paul gives this godly mama the charge to understand that it is “God who works through you to will and do for His good pleasure” (verse 13) and that if we can do the things God has called us to do without grumbling or complaining, then we will be “without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we will] shine as lights in the world” (verse 15).

The real solution to our complaining is a greater understanding of the calling God has on our lives and a deeper knowledge that He is using us to impact His Kingdom right where we are. Once we know that truth in our innermost being, the roots of complaining in our soul will be replaced with the healthy growth of renewed purpose.

    About the Author

  • Melanie Lenow