After re-reading my last post, Be a Grace-Filled Communication Pioneer, I realized that some of what I said may have easily been misunderstood. So…I decided to elaborate. ;)
When I said that we should not complain, I was NOT suggesting that we bear our burdens alone. Instead I meant to emphasize that when we speak about our afflictions and sufferings we should do so with a perspective that recognizes how God is at work in our lives. I believe that choosing not to complain does not negate vulnerability and honesty with others. Anyone who knows me knows that my life is an open book (the good, the bad, and the ugly). However, I genuinely believe that biblical vulnerability does not give license to venting, complaining, or grumbling. Instead, I view vulnerability as being honest about our circumstance (not sugar coating our side of the story or painting a picture in our favor) and then recognizing any possible sin within our own heart. Next, we have to fight our sin with the truth of the gospel. The best way we can do this on a consistent basis is through accountability. Part of being vulnerable is being open to reproof from others, seeking biblical council, and sharing how God is working in our lives. These things cannot be done alone!
In my opinion, being open and honest includes empathizing with others. Sin is awful and we should grieve over sin. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Almost two years ago I had a friend who lost her daughter (who was 14 months old). I learned so much from my friend simply from how she responded to the tragedy. Not once did she complain or grumble. She grieved, but despite the horrendous circumstances her faith remained strong. Not all of us are this strong in our faith. I can only hope that God will show me grace to respond faithfully if I ever experience tragedy and I pray that I can do so without complaining.
The Bible gives numerous illustrations and commands against having a complaining attitude. Rachel complained and blamed Jacob in Gen 30:1 because she envied Leah. The Israelites complained over and over again about their circumstances (Ex 5:21, 14:11-12, Num 11:1-10, 14, 16:41, 20:2-5, 21:5-6) and in Duet 1:27-28 Moses declares that this is from hearts who do not believe (or trust) in God. This “rebellion” angered God and resulted in the punishment of the Promised Land being withheld from that generation. Jonah complained about God’s compassion on Nineveh and God rebuked him in Jonah 4. Martha complained about Mary in Luke 10:40 and Jesus himself corrected her. Job, of course, is the most common example of suffering. He took his complaints directly to God. Job’s friends demonstrate to us that any human effort to resolve our problems is futile because our wisdom is fallible and God’s is perfect. However, even though Job complained to the right person he did it in the wrong way. God responded to him by calling him a “faultfinder.” This helped Job to recognize that he was in the wrong because he was questioning the creator who is sovereign, righteous, just, and holy. Job was suggesting that he knew what was better for himself. This is where I find myself many times. I will take my complaints to the right person, God, but I do so in a way that is demanding for God to adhere to my way of doing things. In these moments I am in sin because I have made control the idol of my heart.
David is another example of someone taking their complaints to God. After reading Psalm 55, 64, and 142 there is a clear difference between his complaints and the ones I mentioned above. David truly poured his heart out to God. His words remind come across as more of a pleading or petitioning. Clearly there is a sense of desperation and dependence upon the Lord (knowing who God is and what God is capable of). David approaches Him with humility and his words demonstrate how he completely trusts in the Lord with all of his heart. THIS is how we should respond to our sufferings and afflictions. I pray that you and I both will be able to discern the righteous way to respond to the daily struggles we face.
Here are a few other scripture references I feel can really encourage us to maintain an eternal perspective and fight not to complain about things of this world.
- As imitators of God we are to give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:20)
- Like Christ we are called to “Do all things without grumbling” so we might be representative of Christ to the lost. (Phil 2:14)
- Colossians 3:15-17 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- 1 Thes 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
- Phil 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.