Have you ever had A Moment? If you’re a mom, you know what I mean by A Moment.
It’s that point when it ALL comes out because—For The Love—MOMMA JUST CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE!
That’s exactly where I was a few months ago, except I didn’t have A Moment; I was having *Lots* of Moments and they were all starting to run together.
Like the night Me with All My Words was going on and on about Who Knows What, when my husband gently informed me that I am a Complainer.
Are you kidding me right now?! I was offended and for a moment All My Words were gone.
I tried to defend myself by saying, How would you know? You’re mostly with me at my two worst times of day, early morning and late at night.
But who was I kidding? In my heart I knew he was right. (Man, I hate it when he’s right!)
But rather than argue with me, he simply told me that if I couldn’t take his word for it, maybe I should ask someone who’s with me all the time.
And just who would that be?
About a week later as I sat frustrated and frowning, my precious, angel-faced-7-year-old lovingly came to my side. Putting her arm around my shoulder she sweetly asked, “Momma? Can you try not to be so grouchy? I really don’t like when you’re cranky, it makes me sad. I like it when you’re happy and fun.”
That stung, but even through my tears I still justified my attitude. Sometimes Momma’s Happy Pants just don’t fit. Momma is tired and quite frankly, the Cranky Pants are comfortable.
I didn’t get it.
Ohhh but then. One week later to the day—I kid you not—I turned on the radio to hear one of my favorite pastors preaching on… Complaining.
Bam. There it was. I hear You, Lord.
A lump formed in my throat as I listened. Tears began to fall. Guilty as charged.
For the first time ever, I understood what complaining really is, what it does to my heart and those around me, and even worse, what it does to God.
Unbeknownst to me, my Moments were a sign that I was in The Wilderness. (If you’re just joining me, check out “I Am a C” and “Welcome to the Wilderness” to get caught up.) Though I smiled and tried to be My Best Self, those closest to me knew the truth. I was going through the motions and I was miserable.
“Those who choose murmuring as their lifestyle will spend their lifetimes in the wilderness.” ~ James MacDonald
Complaining is one of the five attitudes that constitute this “murmuring” that Scripture refers to. Complaining is:
- Griping about something that IS wrong but doing nothing to change or affect it
- Griping about something this IS NOT wrong but differs from my preference
For Instance, it is not complaining when I’m served the wrong order at a restaurant and I politely ask that it be fixed. It is complaining if I eat the wrong food I was served and gripe about it to everyone at the table, never asking my server to fix the problem.
Complaining is also expressing dissatisfaction when things aren’t the way I think they should be. Nothing is technically wrong; things just don’t match the Standard of Rightness in my head. If you have self-diagnosed OCD like me, you totally get what I mean. There IS a correct way to fold the towels and load the dishwasher.
Any fellow Complainers out there? My hand is up—y’all don’t leave me hangin’.
Honestly, I’m a pro. If there were an American Ninja Warrior Complaining Challenge, I would have a pretty good shot at the title. Whatever the topic, it doesn’t matter. I usually have no problem spotting something to complain about…
Gas prices. The government. Video cameras at traffic lights. Walmart only opening 4 of its 50 registers. Vaginal Mesh Sling law suit commercials during Full House. (Seriously, does that last one bother anyone else?)
But I can get even more personal with my complaining… My husband. My family. My house. My car. My church. My life situation in general. I can complain about anything, even the people and things I love most.
Confession? Sometimes I just like to complain. It makes me feel better. It’s like even if I can’t change things at least I can gripe about what bothers me. At least I can make my opinion known lest my disapproval go unnoticed by the world (because my opinion is THAT important, she says sarcastically.)
James MacDonald, also an admitted Complainer, writes, “The reason we complain is because it momentarily satisfies our sinful natures…by releasing negative emotional energy.”
See, even he agrees—it feels good to gripe. To “vent.” No big thing.
But then I remember something…
If-It-Feels-Good-Do-It Mentality always leads to A Not-So-Good Reality. God’s word promises I will reap what I sow. (Galatians 6:7-9)
With every complaint I utter, I plant a seed. What fruit do I reap from complaint seeds? A stinky personality and a bad attitude. And as we’ve learned, my attitude determines my ability to live the abundant life Jesus offers.
On top of that, my stinkin’ thinkin’ affects others. Have you ever been trapped in the car with a Complainer? It’s not long before you find yourself either harmonizing to the same ugly tune or plotting a McGuyver-style escape route in your head. (My poor family.)
Right now some of you may be thinking, Yeah, I know some Complainers, but not me. I keep my thoughts to myself.
Hold the phone right there, Introvert. Before you go thinking this is just a problem for us loose-lipped Extroverts, think again. As MacDonald says, “You’re not living in victory simply because you have a piece of duct take over your mouth.”
Complaining isn’t just that outburst of frustration; it is also the dissatisfaction we keep to ourselves. Even if I never speak a word, my unspoken negative thoughts still affect my attitude and experiences, leaving me with the same stinky fruit.
“May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing, even to You, my Rock and Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14
But here’s the worst thing I reap: Separation from God. He hears All of My Words and All of My Thoughts and judges them for what they are—sin. God hates sin and in His holiness He will not tolerate it from His children.
We don’t like to think of God this way, as Judge, but that’s who He is. He is the Ultimate Judge and Authority of Everything because He made everything. He gets the final say about what is right and wrong and He determines the consequences.
Friends, God has something to say about complaining. Let’s look at what happened to the children of Israel and learn from their mistakes.
“Do not regard lightly the disciple of The Lord…For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” ~Numbers 12:5-6
Who Did God Judge?
“The people were soon complaining about all their misfortunes, and The Lord heard them…” ~ Numbers 11:1
“The people…” Which People? The People who witnessed the plagues in Egypt and The Passover. The People finally freed from years of slavery. The People who walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. The people who followed God via a cloud by day and fire at night. The People who gathered miracles called Manna every morning.
These were Saved People, Blessed People, like you and I are today, yet they were unhappy because they focused on their “misfortunes.” As a result, they totally missed the joy of the miracles within their midst.
What Did They Complain About?
These people complained about Everything. All.The.Time. If it didn’t match their taste or suit their liking, they complained about it. Just take a quick glance at the Book of Numbers…
“And they turned against Moses, whining, ‘Have you brought us here to die in the desert because there were not enough graves for us in Egypt?’” ~ 14:11
“So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” ~ 15:24
“The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate the bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” ~ 16:3
Life was changing for The People. They were finally free from captivity and movin’ on up to “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Unfortunately, the move wasn’t happening the way they had envisioned and God’s promises weren’t coming fast enough. They began to focus on the good old days (in captivity, mind you) and lost sight of the joy set before them. They were physically set free but still mentally living in bondage.
Who Did They Complain To?
“But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses…” ~ Numbers 17:3
“…They grumbled against Moses.” Or so they thought. Though The People voiced their complaints to Moses, God says they were actually complaining against Him.
“I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.” ~ Numbers 14:27
God heard their complaints and He took it personally. It wasn’t Moses’ idea to lead thousands of people through the desert, it was God’s. He was The Man with The Plan; there was a purpose behind everything He did.
How Did God Judge Them?
“…His anger flared out against them because of their complaints, so the fire of The Lord began destroying those at the far end of the camp.” ~Numbers 11:1
God heard their complaining—just their complaining—and He engulfed the outskirts of the camp with flames. The People DIED, y’all. Dead as doornails because they complained. How scary is that?
Have you any idea how many times my house and all its contents would have been torched by now if God were to judge me that way? God’s anger is righteous and just and it is to be feared. This is why we need a Savior.
What Does This Look Like Today?
“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of The Lord…” ~ Numbers 11:1
Here’s an unpleasant truth: “God has entrusted to every person a measure of adversity” (MacDonald). God allows each of us just enough trouble or frustrations or unpleasant circumstances in order to draw us to Him and accomplish His plans. Sometimes those circumstances are major and sometimes they’re minor. Regardless, when I complain about adversity I’m essentially telling God, You’re not doing a good enough job for me.
Whenever I gripe about my job, I’m really complaining about the way God is providing for my physical needs. Whenever I whine about my childhood, I am questioning God’s intentions for me by allowing me to experience certain situations.
Y’all, God doesn’t have a Heavenly Complaint Box. He doesn’t sit around waiting to hear how I think He’s doing with my life and the suggestions I have for how to make it better. He is God; I am not. He sees The Big Picture; I don’t. It makes Him beyond angry when I think I can do His job better.
“Complaining is an attitude that if left unchecked will wither my capacity to experience joy and genuine thankfulness.” ~James MacDonald
Today, the consequences of complaining are not physical; the fallout is spiritual and emotional. Feelings of resentment, hopelessness, discontent, frustration. Lots of Moments.
For me, complaining about my husband led to fighting and disrespect. Complaining about my family and home led to comparison with others and feelings of inadequacy. Complaining about my church led to dissatisfaction and a critical spirit. Complaining about my work led to daily feelings of dread and drudgery.
But the biggest fallout? We become ungrateful.
Consider this illustration by Pastor MacDonald. It was the heartbreaking moment of realization for me.
Imagine for a moment you went out for a rare Date Night. Your oldest is babysitting the younger two. As you enter the house, expecting to find them in bed, you realize they are nowhere to be found. The house is quiet and dark and you begin to search frantically. As you walk through the house listening for them, you hear voices in the basement.
You open the door slowly and step down the stairs, only to realize it’s your children’s voices. They are sitting on the floor in a circle with a flashlight, obviously engrossed in conversation because they have no idea you are there.
You’re relieved to find them, but you’re also curious what they’re talking about. So you listen and hear…”I wish Dad would get a better job. Is he lazy?” “Why can’t he take care of us like the Smith’s at church or like the Joneses at school? Why can’t we have…?” “I’m so sick of Mom’s rules: ‘Go to school,’ and ‘Clean up your room.’ Who does she think she is?! I’m not gonna take her bossy ways anymore.”
You listen and the complaining goes on. At first, you’re hurt. You think, “I have tried so hard, I’ve done so much. How could it not be enough?” Your hurt lasts about ten seconds and then you’re angry. “The nerve of these kids! It’s never enough! The things I have done for them! They have no idea the sacrifices that we have made. Maybe we haven’t given them everything but we have done our best!”
As a parent, I totally get this. I understand how much God loves us, how He wants to do so much for us because I know how much I love and want to do for my own children. When we complain about what He’s doing or how He’s doing it, we are questioning God’s sovereignty, His love and His provision.
God wants to be close to us. He grants us eternal life forever but He also longs to give us abundant life NOW. Not perfect—abundant.
So How Do We Change?
If you’re a Complainer like me, all of this is clicking right about now. I was convinced of my sin and convicted to change.
- First, I agreed with God that complaining is, in fact, sin.
- Second, I admitted I am a Complainer and confessed my dissatisfaction has really been with Him.
- Third, I repented.
“Repent” means to stop doing one thing and start doing another. Researchers agree; the best way to quit a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.
Complaining is what I must stop and Thankfulness is what I must start.
“Less Attitude. More Gratitude.” ~ Unknown
Thankfulness must become a deliberate choice I consciously make. Whenever I am tempted to complain about our financial situation, I must consciously choose to reverse that thought and thank God for faithfully meeting our needs. Whenever I want to gripe about my church, I should instead thank The Lord for the people He’s given me to walk with and pray for their endeavors.
A practical way I’ve reminded myself to do this is with this verse:
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” ~ Philippians 1:3
I’ve literally taped note cards with this verse all over my house. I put it anywhere I am usually tempted to complain, like on my husband’s closet doors because he never remembers to close them. It’s a small thing, but something I would grumble about nonetheless. Whenever I see that verse, it reminds me to give thanks for the companion God has given me and dwell on the things he does do to help me.
“Do everything without murmuring or complaining…” ~ Philippians 2:14
I’m nowhere near victory just yet; I’m a Recovering Complainer. I ’m aware I have a sinful habit and I am actively seeking to change it.
I still have Moments, but I now know better than to complain. Instead, I allow that ache to point me toward my Creator and Sustainer, for He is the only One who can deliver the Promised Land living I desire.
If you’re still serious about leaving The Wilderness, don’t take your boots off just yet. There are four more attitudes to tackle before our journey is through.
Remember, attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time. We didn’t get here overnight, so we can’t expect to get moved overnight, either.
Hold your horses just a little bit longer.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18