Ten Things We Need to Know About Complaining
One of my dearest friends and I have known each other for more than twenty years. Years ago, we both lived in the same apartment complex and often shared meals to save money. We had very little to call our own. As young single moms, we had furnished our government-issued apartments with previously-owned, heavily-used furniture, bedding, and dishes. Often, we were the thankful recipients of other’s throwaways. We stretched every dollar farther than imaginable. We worked long hours and often had more debt than dollars. We clipped coupons, worked multiple jobs, held garage sales, etc. – whatever was necessary to ensure we provided for our young families. There is something about my friend that struck me years ago, and it is still true today. She is the most grateful woman I have ever met. Whatever was given, she oozed gratitude. Sadly, I cannot say that I exhibit that same sense of gratitude every day.
I have become increasingly aware of the lack of gratitude that many of us suffer from. There is a seemingly growing trend among us that we are just ungrateful. As bad as it sounds, this condition is not new. Just read Exodus 16:1-8. We begin to see the unfolding of the Israelites complaining while on their journey in the wilderness. The interesting part of this particular passage is that it had only been thirty days since God had delivered them out of Egypt! Sounds like anybody you know? Keep reading:
1. The only thing owed to us is death. According to Romans 6:23, the only thing God owes us is eternal separation from Him. But God, in His amazing grace, chose to send us a Savior. Jesus paid the price for the grace we never deserved. When we understand that the very gift of eternal life that we have was just that – a gift, then it is much easier for us to avoid complaining about the circumstances of today. Even if you are living through the worst of scenarios right now with your health, marriage, finances, or children, our lives are temporary. Our eternity will look much different when we know the Lord as our Savior.
2. Restoring our sense of awe will lessen our complaining. As a child, can you remember possessing a sense of wonder about the world? Do you remember looking at the sky in awe of how big and blue and impressive it was? Do you remember saying childhood prayers where you thanked God for the flowers, the trees, and the very air you breathed? We were thankful for moms and dads, sisters, brothers, a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. At what age does all that shift? When do we stop being thankful for the little things and the big ones that God has provided? When do we determine that only the blessings we deem big enough are worth thanking God for? Furthermore, what gives us the right to even categorize any of God’s blessings on our lives as small?
3. The pursuit of more will never fulfill us. For far too long, many of us have had the mindset what we have is not enough regardless of what we have accomplished— it is never enough. We always want more. If we are hungry and the food bank is passing out bread, we want two loaves instead of one. If the church is giving away free coffee after Sunday service, we are irritated that they are not giving away Starbucks; it is just a simple off-brand. If we are single, we want to be married. If we are married, we want a better spouse. We want to be thinner, prettier, and richer. We want a good job, then a better one. Now, that job is no longer the best job, so we search for the next job, and we are raising our children who are carbon copies of us but twice as bad. The majority of the time, they are not grateful for a new toy; they want the best toy. They are not sensitive to financial boundaries because culture (us) permeates the greed of more, more, more, and the pursuit of that façade will never make us happy or fulfilled or thankful. The pursuit of Christ is the only true fulfillment we will ever know.
4. God’s provision is always enough. Look at Exodus 16:17-18. “So, the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.” Every day God gives what we need for that day.
My provision does not look like your provision. What I need in my life is different from what you need in your life. Maybe you are in a season where God wants to stretch your faith; you may not have much. That does not mean what you do have is not sufficient. He is teaching you some things about faith. Sometimes, God has not given us what we asked for, because the simple answer is, we just do not need it, or maybe we have not been faithful with what He’s already give us.
Sadly, many of us are grateful for God’s provision for about thirty seconds then, we move on to the next thing we want. God always has a plan. When the Red Sea was parted, it was not a last-minute, impulsive move on God’s part. He always knew He had to deliver them from Egypt and lead them out by way of the Red Sea and that He would have to open the way for them. He has a plan and purpose for you, as well. Take some time to journal what God is doing for you– write it down and save it. Create a gratitude journal or a gratitude jar. Look back over the months and years and see how faithful God has been.
God will always do more than we think. He will provide in ways that we are unable to imagine to even think about asking Him. He will do things that are substantial, miraculous, earth-shattering, and life-changing. He knows what He is doing. Trust Him to do it and just be grateful for it.
5. What you choose to focus on matters. Exodus 16:9-10 says, “Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Announce this to the entire community of Israel: Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.” Just a couple of verses before, they had been complaining about what they did not have. Their focus was not on the glory of the Lord, His provision, His grace, or the fact that He had just rescued them out of decades of bondage. When their focus shifted, all of a sudden, they saw the glory of who God truly is. What would happen in your life if you chose to focus on the awesome glory of the Lord every day? When we choose to shift our perspective, we can see God’s handiwork all around us. We may not have everything we are praying for in this instant, but there are others with greater needs, greater lack. God is a good God who provides.
6. Our obedience matters. In Exodus 16:19-20, “Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then, it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.” What is in our lives right now that was meant to be a blessing but is now beginning to stink because we have failed to obey God or taken care of the provision? Children are a beautiful blessing from God. When we fail to follow the Lord’s instruction in raising them in the way they should go, because of our disobedience, those same children can cause us to have many sleepless nights, shed thousands of tears, and suffer great pain, heartache, and grief. Sex within marriage is a beautiful thing, but outside of marriage, pain and heartbreak are ultimately involved. A godly husband is a blessing from the Lord, but when we step outside of God’s will to find one, there will likely be many hardships and sleepless nights.
When God gives us a command for our lives, it is not a suggestion. It is not optional. We get into trouble when we choose not to obey, and our disobedience often creates a disgruntled, complaining attitude that pushes focus away from us and redirects it to others in our lives. We find ourselves complaining about our bosses, pastors, spouses, family members, friends, and others.
7. Complaining is a choice. Contentment is a choice. Choose to be grateful. What do you have in your life? Do you have healthy children? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have access to transportation? Do you have a best friend? Do you have a loving church? A job? Education? Breath? Paul writes about this so famously in Philippians 4:11-13, and I’m paraphrasing, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have, whether a little or a lot, empty stomach or full… and he finishes with, For I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” In other words, God is going to give me the strength I need in the season I need it, so I’m going to choose to be thankful for where I am and what I am doing right now.
8. Complaining impacts others. If we are not grateful for the things we already have in our lives, we will never be grateful for these things we are asking God for. That new hair color, promotion, ministry opportunity, car, job, house, friend, and boyfriend — none of those things will ever do. Because we are always choosing to focus on the next best thing. When we have this attitude, we negatively impact others. We exhibit to our children that complaining is acceptable. Have you ever noticed how you may be having a perfectly good day at work when a coworker comes over to complain about the boss or another coworker, you leave the conversation feeling crummy? Our words have the power of life and death. Always ask yourself if the words you are speaking to your spouse, children, coworkers, or friends are impacting their lives positively or negatively.
9. Complaining impacts your relationship with God. In Exodus 16-6-7, there are multiple references as to how the Israelites complaining was against God. In fact, Moses and Aaron said on several occasions, “Your complaints are not against us. They are against God!” Consider this. What is the last thing you were complaining about? Your job? Boss? Church? Children? Dirty laundry? Chores? Difficult financial decision? Whatever it was, there was a blessing attached to it. Those dirty clothes are evidence of God’s provision in your life. The fact that you even have a boss means you have a job. The difficult financial decision likely represents at least some finances coming in. In other words, God’s provisions are all around us, but when we are constantly complaining, it distances us from intimacy with our Lord.
10. Complaining changes nothing. Recently, the air conditioning service went out in our building. We are in the South in more than 90-degree temperatures right now. The repair process took much longer than expected, and we ended up having to endure the heat for two weeks. My complaining every morning about the problem did not solve it. It did not change anything; it probably made other staff members uncomfortable, ill-focused, and more disgruntled. Friends, we need to shift our perspectives today — we need to be focused on gratitude. Think about the things in your life that you can choose to be thankful for instead of complaining about?
The truth is: We have all we need for today. You may be in a place in life where you have no idea where the rent is coming from yet, but you have all that you need today. You may not know where the next meal is coming from for tomorrow, but you have all that you need today. You are blessed and highly favored; there are others who would love to be where you are in your life, in your season. Let go of complaining today.
Photo Credit: © iStock/Deagreez
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.
The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting. Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually. She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.