Stresses, changes of plans, unfulfilled hopes, that lazy coworker, and many other drags constantly find their way into our lives. When something happens to us that we don’t want, we respond with perfect happiness from our hearts and mouths — right? Wrong. Instead, our knee-jerk reaction is continually to feel or speak complaints in light of our tough situations. Why does it seem like complaining is the natural default? Ugh. It’s the worst. Oh. I’ve done it again.
I’m speaking from experience. When life does something uncomfortable or unexpected (like every day) a battle rages inside me to keep the overflow of my complaining heart from making it into my speech. I feel like I have more complaining thoughts than Netflix has Nicolas Cage movies. Should that concern me? Is a complaining life, a good life? It doesn’t always feel wrong. In fact, sometimes it feels really good.
What’s so bad about complaining?
To the point, complaining is wrong because it’s distrust in God. I don’t trust God’s goodness in my life when I complain. I don’t see God’s goodness as I internally or externally express that I think I should get something different. Complaining is saying that God should act differently towards me than he has — and when you know the God of the Bible, that’s a scary thought.
3 Lies that Lead to Complaints
1. “I have my own life-direction.”
This one’s easy to forget about. But we all have expectations for the direction and end-result of our lives. Statements like, “you can be whoever you want to be,” or “follow your dreams” have sneakily shaped our generation towards disillusioned autonomy. We are the captain of the ships of our lives and nothing is going to stop our passage to getting where we want to go. When anything gets in the way of our lives’ charted course, we complain.
2. “I have my own life-control.”
In seasons of life when plans are accomplished, goals are reached, and quotas are met, this thought becomes louder and louder. Every day we’re presented with choices to make that seem to either preserve us or destroy us — like keeping the wheel straight when you’re driving 70 mph, eating what won’t kill you, sleeping at least a little, drinking water, etc. Within the grooves of how this life is designed, wisdom (rightly applied knowledge about what things lead to life) is really needed. The choices that we make can coerce us into thinking we’re in ultimate control. When anything hinders our freedom seen in our choices, we complain.
3. “I have my own life-feel.”
Have you thought about this one? So much of our lives is spent around making ourselves comfortable! From the clothes we wear, to the places we live. From the amount and choices of what we eat, to the times we get up, and go to bed. If you’re still not convinced, check your bank statement. When life grows thorns that prick and nag and scratch us, we complain.
Complaining does not lead to a good life. If believing lies leads to complaining, we must backtrack and go deeper into our complex hearts to have any hope of stopping. How do we submit our own direction, control, and expectations to God in order to kill the root of complaining before it sprouts a habitual, ugly pattern in our lives?
Thankfulness. Being grateful is complaining’s homicide. Just think about it. If complaining is distrust in God’s goodness, than the opposite of complaining is trusting in God’s goodness — expressed in thankfulness. Let’s be clear: this is not a pollyanna happiness. This is a deep-felt gratitude expressed in God-word devotion — “be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
Complaint-sprouting Lies Dismantled
Suddenly, with a trustful heart, lies I once believed are exposed as silly and sinful. My life-direction? In God’s hands. Not mine. Thankfulness says I’ve been given so much as God’s child and heir in his family. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).
My life-control? In God’s hands. Not mine. Thankfulness says He holds my days (Psalm 31:15, Jeremiah 29:11). He directs my steps (Proverbs 16:9). Yes, we make decisions and guide the general direction of our lives, but the Bible’s clear that God ultimately orchestrates, oversees, and directs our lives. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:20-23). And, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
My life’s feel? In God’s hands. Not mine. Consider this: when Peter and the other Apostles were being faithful to God, they lived very uncomfortable lives. Jewish leaders told them to shut up about the good news of Jesus, they didn’t, and so they were whipped. Then, we’re told they went away “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). God cares for us too much to give us comfortable lives. Thankfulness says that all of my life is a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7), and that as God’s servants (Romans 6:22) we live with his kingdom priorities first (Matthew 6:33), not our own kingdom comforts. His roads of trust lead us straight on the narrow path of life, while our roads of complaining direct us right down the wide path of eternal, selfish, bitter death.