Author Anne Peterson, writing in the August 19th, 2020 edition of crosswalk.com, penned an article entitled, “What Your Complaints Actually Reveal about Your Heart”. It is worth reading. Here is what Peterson wrote: There you go again. You tried not to go to that negative place, but it still happened. Grumbling and complaining. You don’t know when you really started, but you have gotten pretty good at it. No one likes a complainer. You know you don’t. And yet, you slide down that slippery slope more often than you’d like to admit. So what’s going on? Complaints are very telling. Are you ready? I’m going to tell you what your complaints are actually revealing about your heart.
1. We Feel Entitled. A Christian radio show announcer said, “And when we come back, we will deal with the subject of people who irritate you.” Oh that will be good, I thought. So many people irritate me. But what I didn’t expect was hearing, “If people irritate you a lot, your problem isn’t the people; it’s pride.” He had my attention. When we believe we shouldn’t be treated a certain way, we take the position of being above the other person. When you get irritated the next time, see if this may be true for you. And if it is, tell those feelings to the Lord. Feeling entitled is an outfit of pride. “Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’” (John 13:5-9) Here Jesus humbled himself wanting to wash his disciples’ feet. Peter did not realize it at first, but when he did, he was all behind Jesus washing his feet. When we feel entitled, we are also feeling superior. It’s as if what is before us is fine for others, but not for us.
2. We are Impatient. We bring our requests to the lord. And then we wait. We may respond with patience as we wait, but the truth is, sometimes we don’t like the waiting room. Scripture tells us: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) We not only lay our requests before God, but we also have a desired timetable we would like God to answer our prayers in. Joyce Meyer used to talk about waiting well. I began seeing each time of waiting as a challenge to still be thankful whenever God chose to answer my prayers, instead of wondering why God took his time. I ask myself the question from time to time, “Am I waiting well?” When God answers my prayer, am I thankful, or do I arrogantly wonder what took him so long. The longer we know the Lord, the more we learn his character and the more we realize everything God does for us is for our good. His timing is perfect.
3. We Hold on to Resentment. Sometimes when God answers our prayers we grumble anyway. It could be because we have held onto some resentment about another issue. Grumbling and thankfulness cannot coexist. Thankfulness leaves no room for anything else. And God tells us when we are to be thankful: “… in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Resentment never gets us anywhere. It grows best in a soil where we hold on to mistreatment. The only answer to this is forgiveness. And God is the master at that. God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to forgive us our sins.
4. We Compare Ourselves with Others. When we lived in Germany, many other enlisted soldiers lived around us. None of them made very much money and it was okay. We were all in the same boat. But when we started going to functions with those who had higher rank, it felt different. There were comparisons made and those at the bottom didn’t feel very good. Comparisons don’t help anyone. Either you will feel higher than those who have less and you will feel proud, or you will struggle with envy for those who have more. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12) God tells us to be content with such things as we have. And how fitting that it is Paul that tells us this. Paul experienced what it was like to have much and what it was like having little. He knew and shared with us what the secret was to being content. God can help us to be grateful, no matter what we are going through.
5. We Don’t Think Life is Fair. Whenever I fall into the trap of thinking that life is not fair, I think about Joseph who was imprisoned though he was innocent of the accusation. And yet, the Bible says that God was with Joseph. Throughout Joseph’s imprisonment, we see his attitude was exemplary. He could have only done that with God. You can read that whole story in Genesis chapter 39-40. “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:20) If we suffer because we have done wrong and we take it patiently, so what? But if we suffer for an injustice and we take it patiently, we please God.
6. We are Conformed to This World. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) The world we live in is constantly telling us that we deserve even more than we have, that we are worth it. But God tells us to be thankful in everything and to give thanks for everything. We need to consistently be putting God’s truth into our hearts so we can dispel the lies of the world. What we deserved was death. But God loved us so much that instead he gave us eternal life. When we get our hearts wrapped around that, we will find that instead of grumbling or complaining, we are actually thankful. Father God, I pray for us. That we would fully recognize all you have done for us through your Son, Jesus. Help us, Lord, to choose thankfulness when we are tempted to be ungrateful. Help us to put truth into our hearts so we can fight the lies we hear all around us. God, show us how we can be like Paul who gave you thanks whether he was having a good day, or he sat in shackles in prison. And we will be sure to give you the glory. For we ask this in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.