I Can’t Complain — But I Do
When I wrote about the trials of faithful Christians, the triteness of my own problems became apparent.
We know better than to complain. We feel a little guilty, and we make fun of ourselves with the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. But we don’t care enough to stop.
The day after a major complaint fest, I came to work and wrote an update about Leah Sharibu. She’s the 15-year-old in Nigeria who’s been a captive of Boko Haram for over 150 days. Why? Because she is a Christian, and she refused to convert to Islam, even when given the chance to be free.
That same day, I reported on Pastor Andrew Brunson, the American pastor jailed in Turkey. He’s served the Lord by pastoring a church there for over 20 years. He’s coming up on two years in jail due to trumped up charges.
Soon I was ashamed. Writing about the trials of these faithful Christians, I saw the triteness of my own problems, and the ugliness of my attitude the night before.
What do I have to complain about? I have a nice place to live, a great job, a husband who loves me, a child on the way, a family I love and see often, a free country in which to live and worship without fear.
So I have nothing to complain about. If God can chide (or smite) Israelites who complained during a 40-year trek through the desert, he has every right to punish me for complaining when I have so many good things. It would be a punishment well-earned.
Why is complaining so bad? It makes us focus on the negative. And if we do that, we’re no different than the world, which is consumed with the negative. As children of God, we should be looking at Jesus. Our lives, actions and words should point others to look at him as well. When we do that, we’ll shine like stars in the darkness:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. — Philippians 2:14-16
But how can we keep ourselves from complaining? It’s such an easy trap to fall into. The answer is straightforward: be thankful.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It’s impossible to complain when we have a sincere spirit of thanksgiving. Likewise, it’s impossible to focus on all the things we’re thankful for in the middle of whining. Just try it. It doesn’t work.
So next time you’re tempted to complain, stop yourself, and give thanks for something instead. Then give thanks for something else. Get out a pen and write a list if you have to. Pretty soon, you’ll see how petty and shameful your complaint is. And if you’ve made a list of things to be thankful for, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying a better attitude.
A Good Attitude is Contagious
Still, there are days it’s just plain hard to summon the will power to give thanks and rejoice.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul urges Christians to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” If you’re battling the spirit of complaining and need encouragement, ask for it from your fellow believers. And when you’re around others, be encouraging. Be thankful. Just as complaining is contagious, so is a good attitude.
Dear Lord, thank you for the heart check this week. Please help me keep things in perspective, and most of all, to give thanks no matter what. You died so I could live. You have good plans for my life. And you will never abandon me. I have nothing to complain about and everything to be thankful for.