22 July 2011

A Complaint

            During the recent great heat wave of America, I was forcibly reminded of another topic that I feel very strongly about: complaining. When I was growing up, when a family member complained, it was very common to remind them of the ancient Israelites in order to discourage them from further complaints. Now, I may be wrong, but I think this is a somewhat unusual response to complaining.
Just picture it: A small child complains, “I’m thirsty” or “It’s too hot” or “My schoolwork is too hard” in the whiny voice that children have been perfecting for centuries. An older sibling lovingly replies, “Hey, do you remember what happened to the Israelites when they complained?”
Perhaps this is not the kindest way to respond to complaining. And, I must admit, that this response is not a magic cure to stop the complaining. Sometimes the complainer simply doesn’t care what happened to the ancient Israelites and keeps on voicing their complaint, louder and with increasing frequency. So, while this simple reminder does not automatically convince children that complaining is a bad idea, I do think that we Christians should daily remind ourselves of what God thinks about complaining.
Let’s just take a quick look at what did happen to the Israelites when they complained. In Numbers 16, all of the sons of Israel began complaining about Moses, and were turning against their God-appointed leader, when, first thing you know, 14,700 Israelites died by a plague before Aaron was able to offer atonement for them. In Numbers 21, once again, the Israelites begin complaining, this time about the lack of food and water. Seems a reasonable thing to complain about, right? I mean, I can imagine that I also would feel like complaining if my refrigerator was empty. But apparently, God did not think they had any right to complain. This time, He sent poisonous snakes to the people of Israel, and many died from snake-bites. Now that’s a story that could frighten a person into not complaining. But more importantly, I think that story is a good reminder of what God’s attitude toward complaining is; He doesn’t like it.
In spite of their severe punishments, Israel never seemed to get it that God was not keen on their complaining. We can hardly judge them, however, because Christians have often not done a good job of recognizing the act of complaining as something that is offensive to God. I’m not saying that there is no place for complaining in the life of a child of God. David himself does quite a bit of “complaining” in the Psalms—but in that context, he is seeking God’s help and provision in times of trouble. This is quite a bit different from “This food is gross!” “My boss is so annoying!” or “I’m so tired of all this rain!” Yes, we can pray to our Father about bad work situations, and pray for good weather, but it is my belief that we ought not to be consistently talking about all the bad things that go on in life and complaining about them to others. When a child of God complains, he is basically saying that God has not done a good enough job of providing for him. A complainer is not giving God the glory that He deserves.
The biblical basis for a no-complaint lifestyle goes beyond just scary stories in the Old Testament. Paul says in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” That word always in the verse seems to make it clear that Paul isn’t saying that you ought to rejoice in the Lord most of the time, except when you feel hungry, sick, lonely, or annoyed. Paul is also the one who talks about being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11). It doesn’t help the cause of complainers that Paul did know what it was like to live in bad circumstances—I can imagine most of us would feel like complaining rather than rejoicing if we were sent to jail or whipped as he was.
                The trouble with complaining is that it’s so easy.  There are endless topics to complain about--you can complain about your work, your kids, your spouse, your friends, your food—you can even complain about complaining (which may be what I’m doing right now). In addition, with all of the technology and social media we have access to, it’s even easier to complain! We aren’t limited to complaining to the people we actually hang out with. We can pick up our cell phones and call or text our complaints to sympathetic friends. We can email our complaints to far away family members. We can let hundreds of people knows our complaints at once by complaining on our Facebook statuses. We can even complain on blogs, for the whole World Wide Web to see. Yes, it’s nice to have some sympathy from friends when your boss is being a jerk—but I believe we should be more aware of how God looks at our complaining.
Well, I will stop complaining about complaining right here. After all, I know what happened to the Israelites when they complained, and it doesn’t sound pleasant.
Aunt Brandie said...

My recent experience with this subject is quite interesting. I was at the car dealership having some work done on a recall that had been issued. They said it shouldn't take more than an hour or so. So I arrived for my 9:30 appointment, and put my nose in a book. Time passed. More time passed. It REALLY was a good book!Plus, I could clearly see (what I thought was) my vehicle off in the distance being worked on. So when my stomach began growling around 12:30 and I realized I had a babysitter wondering where I was, I finally walked on up to the service desk, shaking a little cause I get that way when I'm hungry, and said...."I'm not normally a complainer, but I am wondering how much longer this is going to be!!?? I have been here since 9:30."

The lady proceeded to tell me the work was done and they would get my vehicle right away! Soon after that, the guy who checked me in,comes showering apologies on me, promising a free oil change and such. Apparently he had forgotten I was sitting in the waiting room. *sigh* The work had been done for quite some time while I sat there in oblivion enjoying my book.

I was glad I spoke up or you never know how much longer they would have made me wait...Complacency has it's drawbacks?? lol The challenge for me came with the feelings of frustration that resulted from being forgotten in such a way...No doubt some folks would use that as a justifiable opportunity to vent their frustrations on the business owner and milk the situation for all they could. Instead I just kept taking deep breathes and high tailed it out of there, with a plan never to

Anonymous said...

Especially on facebook status!