When someone asks you how you’re doing, what’s the first thing you do? I usually rack my brain for any positive or negative things I have going on that I would want to share with this person. And unfortunately, most of the negative things take the form of complaints. I have this ailment going on, a frustration with another person, or a state of busyness that hasn’t calmed down. But there’s a difference between complaining and simply telling someone about a negative thing that’s going on in your life. Do you feel like it’s unfair, are you reacting in frustration or anger, or do you want the other person to make you feel better and make you feel justified in your complaint vs. humbly telling someone what’s going on and asking for prayer or advice.
Matt Rogers, pastor and writer for The Blazing Center, has written an article on TheBlazingCenter.com titled “Complaining Isn’t Authentic, It’s a Waste of Time.” Your first reaction may be “ouch!” or maybe even “amen!” but either way Rogers has some excellent points to share with us. He states,
“Since sin invaded the world, we’ve all had issues doing everything without complaining or grumbling (Phil. 2:14). But lately, it seems that we’ve begun to celebrate complaining as a virtue rather than a vice.”
Sometimes complaining or grumbling comes so easily that we don’t even notice we’re doing it. Christians strive to be honest, especially with our close family and friends and people in our Bible study. When we’re really comfortable our honesty can sometimes take the form of complaints because it’s how we’re really feeling. What we need then is for someone to humbly admonish us and prayerfully guide us.
Rogers writes, “Maybe you’re like me and find complaints are second-nature. If so, here’s a few thoughts or practices I’m starting to put in play in my life.”
Here are 3 practices from Rogers' article that will help us reevaluate our posture of complaining:
1. Start your day by prioritizing praise.
Maybe you get up early every morning for a quiet time with God, but then you find yourself complaining in prayer. Maybe you’re not a morning person, and it’s all you can do to rush to get ready in the morning. Or maybe you get up in the morning but there are so many thoughts whirling in your head that you don’t even think about pausing before rolling out of bed. Prayer time with God in the morning is wonderful, and it can be humbling depending on where your focus is. Rogers says,
“I’m learning to pray prayers that celebrate God’s character, his grace through Christ, and his goodness in my life. And then I need to stop for a while. Later in my day, I can pick up my list of needs, and intercede on behalf of others, once I’ve prioritized praise.”
Make it a goal this week to get up 5, 15, 45 minutes early—whatever you can do—and spend time in prayer simply praising God, thanking Him for who He is and for this new day He has given you. If you forget one morning, do it as soon as you remember, talk to God on your commute. Let’s start our day giving all praise to the One who is worthy of it.
2. Recognize that life will be frustrating.
This is a hard one … we know that life will not be perfect on this earth or even peaceful or comfortable. But that doesn’t keep us from trying to weed out frustrations. Rogers says it best, “Complaints spring from a heart that thinks it deserves better.”
Rogers points out that we also need to know the difference between genuine suffering and trivial annoyance. There is genuine suffering in this world—cancer, life threatening or debilitating illness, divorce, abuse, and so on. Our posture in these events is usually not bent in complaint but pain. Rogers says in these events it is good to surround yourself with those who will bear this burden with you.
But Rogers warns, “If petty annoyances cause you to shout complaints, then what do you do when something really bad actually happens?” If we’re able to handle petty complaints with humility then when something really bad happens we won’t be derailed. People are watching when we’re annoyed and frustrated and they’re watching when we go through deep suffering; what do we want them to see?
3. Be careful who you complain to and who you spend time with.
Do you spend time with a serial complainer? Sometimes the more we are around someone who complains the more we want to complain. When we’re tempted to complain, we “need to surround ourselves with those who are seeking to train their hearts to celebrate the goodness of God in the midst of a broken world,” says Rogers. As much as we want someone to hear our complaints and let us vent, what we really need is someone who will quiet us and point us to Jesus.
One way to get started is to limit who and where we’re complaining. If you’re used to airing your grievances on Facebook, stop; instead, find a small group of friends or one or two people from Bible study that you can be honest about life with. But also be honest with them that complaining is a struggle for you that you’d like them to hold you accountable in humility. Let them know that you want prayer for these issues, and you’d like them to help you or your group focus on God even through complaints or crises.
Rogers wisely concludes, “We all complain far more than we should and far more than we probably think we do. If it’s authenticity that we seek—the reality is that we who are in Christ have far better lives than we deserve.”
To read Matt Rogers’ article in its entirety please visit TheBlazingCenter.com.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29
“Our words have the capacity to do great things. With our mouths we can share the Gospel, pray, disciple, read Scripture, and sing songs to the Lord. The same mouth can also be used to tear down another person and to berate someone made in the image of God.” …Maybe even to complain.
He continues, “through the grace we are shown in the Gospel and the power of God’s Spirit we seek to gain control of our tongues so they might be used again for God’s glory alone.”
When you’re tempted to complain today, ask yourself these 4 questions:
-Who am I complaining to? (Facebook, small group, spouse, co-workers, a group of people who will complain alongside me?)
-What am I complaining about? (Is this genuine suffering or trivial annoyance? Could I possibly insult someone else by complaining about this issue?)
-Why am I complaining? (What do I want to gain from this complaint, do I just want to vent, or do I want people to feel sorry from me)?
-Will it glorify God and build up other believers? (What will these words do when they leave my mouth? Will they help or hurt? Will they give praise?)
Our God is slow to anger; He is abounding in love, and though He is just He offers mercy. May we strive to look more like our God every day, and may we seek His Spirit to convict us and guide us in all that we do and say.
How to Tame Your Tongue
Publication date: September 26, 2016
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.