I don’t think of myself as a complainer. I certainly don’t complain any more than anyone else does. At least, I don’t think I do. Maybe even less. I used to complain a lot, the kind that stems from depression and victim playing, but I’ve come a long way. Now? I don’t really think about it. Well, over the past few weeks, I’ve read and heard things that continuously present the same message- “Don’t complain.” I’d read something in a devotional and then hear the same words later that day from a radio host through my car’s speakers. Sometimes when the same lesson repeatedly pops up and grabs our attention, I think it’s more than coincidence. I think God is trying to teach us something, trying to convict our hearts of something he wants us to learn.
I don’t think of myself as a complainer. But it wasn’t until I started paying attention that I realized I do complain more than I thought I did.
Now, let me insert this disclaimer: Complaining and sharing disagreements in a constructive manner are not the same thing. Sharing disagreements with the person in question, on a mutual platform in order to find common ground and work out differences to find peace and share feelings is one thing, but complaining, as in whining, as in gossiping about co-workers or feeding frustration toward customers is what I’m discussing here. This is not the same as saying “no” or standing up for oneself or constructive criticism. That being said…
The Bible tells us if we seek, we will find. I think it also holds true, that what we seek, we will find. The more we complain, the worse we will feel. Giving our voice to a thought and speaking it out loud gives it more power. We can either speak negativity or speak life. What we focus on becomes our reality, grows bigger than itself
I started paying attention to the times I use my voice for negativity. Finding myself the object of misplaced blame or feeling a bit more like a dancing monkey than a person, or even the tiredness of inescapable drama or inequality are all examples in which a jury would probably agree I am justified in voicing my irritation.
Do I not trust God to be the ultimate Judge? Do I not trust Him to take care of things, to be bigger than my circumstances? It is not up to me to make all things fair, and yet I feel the need to whisper my two-cents to those in agreement. That sort of gossiping suggests self-righteousness and the neglect of His people. It suggests an idea that I’m right and they’re wrong, forgetting that “they” are His sons and daughters and recipients of Calvary’s sacrifice.
I’ve paid more attention and felt the nudge of my Father on my conscience when engaging in such non-productive speech, yet I’ve mostly ignored it. Until the final straw, when one day I realized I was complaining about someone else complaining! I was doing the very thing I disliked in someone else. I was just as bad as they were! Sure, I thought my grievance was justified whereas the other person’s was not. I thought my complaint more noble, while theirs silly. Sounds like self-righteousness to me. As the light bulb went off and I was faced with a big pill to swallow, I knew what I really needed was big ole’ dose of humility.
It’s as if God is leaving a trail of crumbs that are seeds planted in and around my heart and take root and grow until it is impossible to feign unawareness. And each time I feel the hammering of a new convicting nail in my mind, the weight on my heart will grow until I stop pushing aside and address the issue.
I pray daily that God allow me to be His hands and feet, that He use me to bring others closer to Him, that he let me reflect Jesus and be the proof of His love. And yet, when he gives me instruction on how to do just that, I ignore Him! I hear what He is saying and yet I rebel. Amazing! And by amazing I mean ridiculous.
Sometimes I feel stuck in the routine of daily life as if there is no forward motion and I ask God for help. Yet, it is highly possible that I am blocking breakthrough in my own life through my own stubbornness. It is possible that as I pray for direction and for the path to be revealed, as I pray for God to show me what’s next, God is patiently waiting for me to catch up to what He’s already showing me. Just like we must get certain grades in school before graduating, or gain experience and better weapons in a video game before one can level up, maybe the lessons God presents are like that. Maybe I have to learn to obey and master this lesson, before He can unravel the next one. Maybe obeying one instruction is what will lead to hearing more of them.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t complain more than anyone else does, or if when I do, there are “legitimate” reasons. I’m not striving to be more like everyone else, I’m striving to be more like the One who wants me to hold my tongue even on those seemingly small instances. If the words I speak do not offer help or contribute to community and life, then they are useless.
Fortunately, we have a patient Father. He is willing to work with us no matter how long it takes us to get the picture and His arms remain forever open. After ignoring Him time and time again, the lesson has finally become resonant. And as I ask, “Father, forgive me?” Somehow, with abounding, undeserved grace, He does.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” -James 1:19