Unfortunately for me, this is an easy post to write. When I take sincere inventory of my thoughts, concerns, and unguarded conversations, I find more complaint than I ever want to admit. Here are four things God is teaching me about complaint and what to do when I see it.
When we complain, we are often losing sight of the work of God in our life. Think of the Israelites wandering in the desert, infuriated they didn’t have food or water. God provided both. Then exasperated at the daily ritual of the manna and water they complained; longing for meat and onions and riches from a land and a life that was not theirs. Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably do the same, but they didn’t realize how desperate they really were. They lost sight of the purpose of their wandering; God led them to wander through the desert in order to root out the riot in their souls. God designed their menu as a medical prescription for the disease in their heart.
This isn’t always true, but often the things that drive us nuts, are the design and direction of God in our lives. If James 1:17 is true, that “every good and perfect gift comes from above” and our complaints have to do with wanting more good and perfect gifts for our lives, then we are shaking our fist at the provision and purpose of God.
In fact the good and perfect gift He might be giving us is an attempt to root out the riot in our own souls, what a gift! He wants to divide discontentment, slay selfishness, and end anxiety in you and me. What we might be complaining over might be the menu of God designed for the medical procedure our minds and hearts truly need.
Complaint is a form of pride. We don’t want to admit this, but deep down in the heart of a complaint is the belief that “I deserve more.” Once we go to this shadow side of entitlement, we are sliding far and fast away from reality. What we really deserve is far less than what we really have. (We DON’T deserve abuse and manipulation from others-please hear me I’m not avoiding the reality that some are in pain and without because of severe mistreatment.) We have been given life and breath and another day and all the rest, when at our core we are TRULY broken and deserve nothing. He has given His love and grace in the midst of our wandering. In Him we do have what we need.
Complaint is an attack on the character of God. This is hard to face but when we complain, we are telling God, “you are not good enough, or powerful enough, or you don’t love me enough, or you aren’t smart enough to give me what I think I need and want.” The truth is that God is turning over heaven and earth for you and me every single day. He is full of love and it is from that place that He leads us and provides for us with His determined level of provision.
The way out of complaint is confession and gratitude. It’s just a very simple exercise (every time we catch ourselves complaining) of exhaling the complaints through honest confession and inhaling the blessings God is already pouring into our lives. Jump into a gratitude exercise, listing out who He is, what He has done, what He is doing. Acknowledge our limited understanding of the past, present, and future. Walk forward knowing He is powerful and loving and willing, we are being showered with more than we deserve, and in the space between what we have and what we want, God is working to shape us into His people.