3 Thoughts on Complaining

3 Thoughts On Complaining

by Dan Neighbors

It’s 5:30am. You’re up with the baby again. This is the fifth time tonight. This month has been particularly hard because all three kids got the same cold with fevers, coughing, runny nose, and congestion. The smallest one got it from the older ones and is battling it along with two new teeth that are trying to come out. Needless to say, it’s been hard; but you’ve been here before. Just brew some coffee, sit down with your bible, and try to get a handle on things. You head into the kitchen where you realize that you forgot to pick up coffee. You’re all out. As you try to make sense of what the world has come to, you hear a door slam followed by a loud cry, “Mom, can I get up?” All three kids are now up. You may have just died a little on the inside.
This situation may or may not resonate with you, but I’m sure we can all sense the frustration that this specific turn of events could cause. In one way or another, we’ve all been in difficult and trying situations that have caused our emotions to build into frustration. When things don’t go our way, when our expectations are not met, or our comfort is ripped from our grasp we tend to get frustrated with our circumstances. This frustration often leads to complaining.

So what about this complaining? Is it right or wrong? The circumstances and difficulties are unavoidable. The tiredness, frustration, and all of my feelings are obviously real. Complaining in difficulty just seems to naturally happen. Is it ok? Is it not? What should I do? Here are a few things we need to remember about complaining.

1. You Are Not Alone In Your Circumstances or Complaining

There are a lot of examples in the Bible where people had complaints and had an attitude of complaining. When faced with lack of water in the wilderness, the Israelites griped and grumbled to Moses (Exodus 15:24). With lack of food and starvation on their minds, the Israelites whined and complained that it would’ve been better if they hadn’t been rescued at all (Exodus 16:1-4). If I put myself in their shoes, I don’t know if I would have responded differently. They were in a tough situation, and had gone through a lot recently. Yet, the Israelites complained to Moses and questioned whether or not God made a good decision in bringing them out of Egypt on more than one occasion. The Psalms are also filled with passages where the writers lay out their complaints to God about their troubles. In Psalm 55:17, the author writes, "Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.”
In the midst of difficulty, these Psalmists would unload their complaints before a holy God in an effort to find help and relief. Your difficulty is not new. Your circumstances are not out of the ordinary. Complaining has been a part of human history since the beginning. You are not alone.

2. Our Complaining Is Most Often Sinful

If you look back at the two examples above, I believe most of us would find ourselves identifying more with the Israelites. Too often, like the Israelites, all we can see is the difficulty or trouble that is plaguing us. When faced with lack of water and starvation, the children of Israel forgot about the plagues, the Red Sea, and their miraculous deliverance — they forgot about God. Why was it so easy for them to forget? Their heart was more focused on where they were and where they had been than on where God was taking them. Rather than having a heart that loved and pursued God over anything else (Deuteronomy 6:4-6), their selfish heart was producing sinful thoughts and actions (Mark 7:20-23).

It is here that most of us find ourselves. When faced with obstacles and trials, our heart does not naturally turn to God but to self. We want to avoid or remove the difficulty that we are facing so that we can feel better. When we realize our inability to do so, we complain. We complain silently. We complain in bursts. We complain to anyone that will listen. This is where complaining comes into the picture. Sinful complaining is when we respond to life’s circumstances in thought and word by turning away from God to focus on self. We don’t believe or rely upon God to help us in our time of need, but rather trust in ourself or give up completely when things don’t happen as expected. We believe that things would be better if the difficulty or obstacle was removed. We value that thing (i.e. comfort, satisfaction, or peace) that this difficulty is taking away from us more than God and the help that he brings. This trust in self then grows to express itself in internal & external complaints just like the Israelites in the book of Exodus.

3. When our complaining turns to presenting and giving our complaints to God, it can become honoring to Him.

It is in this recognition of our sinful tendencies in our complaining that we need to see our need to run to God. We cannot remove our obstacles or difficulties that we face everyday, but we can turn to the God of the Israelites to help us get through them. Our feelings and emotions are given to us by God and are real reactions to the difficulties of life, but ruminating on our emotions and feelings of a particular situation will only lead to a self-focused frustration with the current circumstances. We must avoid our natural tendency to inwardly meditate on our current problems, and discipline ourselves to lay out our feelings and emotions before our Heavenly Father. In Psalm 142, we see David, the Psalmist, cry out to the Lord with his emotional complaint while being hunted by Saul who was seeking to kill him. He says,

“With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!”

It is in David’s feelings of abandonment, hopelessness, and fear that he turns to the Lord. He takes time to focus his heart and mind on God — Who He is — and how he needs God to intervene. He lays out his complaint, his frustration, his feelings of fear before God to seek help and guidance through this difficult season. Instead of relying on self and looking for a way out, he is relying on God understanding that He is only way through this pain and suffering.

It is here that our complaining can become honoring to God. As we give our emotions, feelings, and frustrations to God trusting Him to handle them, God will be pleased to provide everything that we need to get through this season. As we lean on God’s character and wisdom to handle the situation rather than ourselves, God will provide the hope and the help to make it through. God wants us to turn to Him when we face a difficult day — he wants to handle our baggage and emotional struggles. He wants to give us peace as he walks us through the storms we are facing, but we have have to trust Him enough to take His hand.

Let me leave you with these thoughts from Paul in Philippians 4:6-8.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

As you consider the thoughts above, here are a few resources to help you better worship God this week along with our Gospel Project teachings. As always, you can see our updated resources for each week on our Resource Page. We also sell (at cost) family resources to take home and accompany our studies through the gospel project like family devotionals and worship music. If you are interested in any of these, visit our Family Resource Center on Sunday in the EKIDZ Wing.

The Bread of Heaven [Gospel Project Kids Video]

What My Complaining Says About God [Ask Pastor John by Desiring God]

The Gracious Provision of God [David Platt]

How Does Christ Help Us In Our Suffering? [Christian Counseling & Education Foundation]

The Exodus Part 1 [The Bible Project]

Our Help [Sovereign Grace Kids Worship]

The Lord Is My Salvation [Shane & Shane Worship Song]

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