How derogatory and negative does something have to be to merit the term “complaining?”
Our church will soon embark on an eight-week period when all the sermons, class lessons, small group discussions and personal devotional readings will be focused on one topic, that of dying to self and living for Christ. Each week one practical activity of self-denial is suggested. I was intrigued by the one week where people are going to be asked to fast from (i.e. avoid) complaining. It immediately made me watchful of what complaining sorts of thoughts, attitudes, and words I noticed in myself.
Again I ask, how derogatory and negative does something have to be to merit the term “complaining?” I knew that the Israelites in the wilderness were clearly guilty. They berated Moses for not giving them a more certain water supply and a more interesting diet (Ex. 14, Num.20 & 21). They even grumbled against the leaders God had given (Num.14,16, 17). They were clearly not content with what God had arranged for them. Moses at times reminded them they were complaining against the Lord. Some of God’s greatest displeasure was focused on their complaining!
Further understanding comes from Philippians 2:14 & 15. When it says “Do all things without complaining…”. It seems to refer to having a negative attitude or words about the things we have to do. But I think it could be extended to include anything that happens while we are going through life, even when the toast burns. The word for “complaining” is further clarified by the Greek lexicon meaning of “secret displeasure” or “querulous discontent.” We may not say anything, but could be grumbling in our minds and think that doesn’t count. God hears, and sooner or later what’s in the heart does come out. A grumbling attitude usually doesn’t show up as a cheerful face.
I began to notice little things like the displeasure I felt against myself when I splashed dishwater down the front of me, or when I forgot something and thus wasted time, etc. I would usually utter a mental exclamation expressing displeasure or frustration. (One my father used a lot was “Oh, brother!” It can be said with such a tone of disgust.) Sometimes it’s brought about by displeasure against the tool/appliances I’m using because they don’t work as well as I’d like or they go out of order. Our displeasure could be directed toward a coworker, family member, or even the weather.
How can we counteract those moments of negativism and discontent? I found it works to think of something positive concerning that event or something related. Instead of complaining against the weather, be thankful how often it’s good, and that we don’t have blizzards and tornados. Do you feel like grumbling about being too busy? Be thankful you have work or purpose so you can be busy. Feeling displeasure about the slowness of your computer? Think of three things to thank God for while you’re waiting. Yes, thankfulness is the God-given antidote to complaining.
Think of how God would be pleased if we could, with his help, eradicate complaining and grumbling from our lives. Paul says that will go a long way to helping us be “blameless and pure, children of God, without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Phil.2:15). This is one way people would be able to see we are different; it’s one way we can shine.
As B2H mentors we are often called to assist our B2H mothers or even other B2H mentors in seeking thankfulness, which in essence helps us eliminate complaining in our own lives. For this I am thankful.
Written by B2H mentor Barbara Wibberly