Today was my last day going through week 3 (Complaining) in my devotional, Controlling Your Pests: Ridding Your Life of Bad Habits by Ross Beodfuehrer.
I thought it made some good points that I wanted to share.
First of all, yes, sometimes complaining is necessary. Jesus did it. But he didn’t just do it to vent his frustration or make himself feel better. He aimed it at people who needed to hear the truth (Matthew 17:17 & Matt 23). I’m not suggesting that we should do this. After all, He was God and perfect, but we have our own selfish motivations to contend with.
David complained to God (Psalm 142:1-2). Job did too, but he quickly withdrew his complaints when he met with God and got some perspective.
Ross Brodfuehrer brought up this question, “Could it be there is a difference between complaining because you like to complain, and complaining out of sincere need, righteous indignation, or in faith God will change things?”
I’d say, “Yes.” But its hard for me to actually call the later 3 categories complaints. I tend to think of them more as requests. But maybe that’s my rationalizing. Or maybe its all in how you phrase things. For instance, I could ask God to help change someone’s heart or I could say, “God, so-and-so had such a nasty attitude. I’m so tired of dealing with them. You need to change their attitude.” The second one definitely has the complaining ring to it as well as bitter, demanding, prideful and condescending.
Brodfuehrer recommended creating some rules for yourself to decide “how and when you will complain and how and when you will not.”
Here’s what I came up with for myself:
1. Does it matter in light of eternity? or Is it just about my own comfort/opinions?
Am I complaining/asking for the rainy day to stop just because it makes it inconvenient for me on my shopping trip or is it because it will ruin an important outreach/fellowship event at church?
2. Is it something that I can change? Or Do I need God to do something about it?
I can complain all day long about my messy house and I can pray for God to make it clean. But come on really, is He really going to clean it for me? Not that He couldn’t, but is that really a good use of His power? No, I need to get off my lazy butt and do something about it. Not that I can’t pray for God to give me motivation or better habits. But I can’t complain about it.
Another example, supposed I’m really heart broken about some choices a friend is making. Yes, I should lovingly confront them (especially if they’re a Christian), but I can’t do anything about their heart or their choices. In this case, I need to leave a big chunk of the responsibility to God. And I would tend to say, that this is a good example of appropriate complaining to God. Especially if that friend’s choices have somehow hurt you. Many times it might be a good idea to complain to God before we even approach someone to complain to them. Our God is strong enough to take whatever we can throw at Him. Whereas sometimes our friends aren’t. And we can do some permanent damage to our relationships if we’re not careful.
3. Is it important enough to pray about?
If something is not important enough to pray about then it’s probably not important enough to verbalize your inner complaints about it either. And if you haven’t prayed about it, it’s probably a good idea to do that first…I bet many times this would give us better perspective and would eliminate a lot of our complaints in the first place.
And above all else, we should keep these verses in mind:
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14, 15 NIV84)
Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9 NIV84)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV84)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV84)