Branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Complaining is normal–but it’s not helpful

What is it about complaining that makes us feel better? Is it something inside us that yearns to focus on a negative? Is it something about people that longs to get everyone to say negative things about other people, about situations, about our jobs? I don’t know, but there is something about complaining that satisfies (temporarily) a darkness inside me. And it’s so much easier to complain about the difficult aspects of life than it is to look on the bright side.

But complaining doesn’t really fix anything. And it doesn’t actually satisfy either. Maybe it makes you feel better for a little while, but it doesn’t last because nothing changes. You don’t change. Your situation won’t chance. Your perspective won’t change. And so neither will your attitude. Complaining doesn’t change anything; it just allows you to sink deeper into depression, and usually you end up taking other people with you.

But what does the Bible say about complaining?

Branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:14-15.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Ouch. Notice it doesn’t say live for Christ without complaining. It doesn’t say work without complaining. It doesn’t say serve without complaining. It says everything. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever you’re dealing with, do it without either complaining or arguing.

Double ouch.

Oh, and it gets worse. Wait til you read it in the Amplified Version:

Do all things without grumbling and fault-finding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world,

Did you catch that at the beginning? Two points:

  1. Do all things without grumbling and fault-finding and complaining against God.
  2. Do all things without questioning and doubting among yourselves.

Whoa. Let’s stop right there for a moment because I always thought this verse only referred to our relationship with other people and not our relationship with God.

I mean, who grumbles and finds fault and complains against God? I mean, God knows best, doesn’t He? When He gives us tasks to do, don’t we do them immediately? When He tells us how we’re supposed to live, don’t we obey? When He allows us to go through difficult times, we all realize it’s going to work out for the best, right?

Anyone else not there? Because that’s me.

I mean, in my head I know that God knows best and that He’s working everything out and that His way is best. I know it. But knowing it and living like I believe it are two separate things. And it’s the living like I believe it part that trips me up. Because if I really believe it, I would do what God asks without grumbling about it. I wouldn’t hesitate. I wouldn’t point out all the ways that God’s plan could go wrong.

And after I spend all my time poking holes in God’s plan, I’m too scared to move forward because I’ve convinced myself that I’m not the one God can use and that He wouldn’t really want me anyway. And guess where that leads?

Unhappiness. Discontentment. Because if God is calling you to do something, you won’t be happy until you do it.

But what we also have to realize is that nothing in this world is easy. And even if we agree to do what God has called us to do, it won’t be simple. Life won’t give us a break because we tell God yes. Actually, our enemy will come charging after us like a raging bull when we say yes to God. And we have to be prepared for that, otherwise our attitude will falter. And even if we’re doing what God has called us to do, we will fall back into our habit of complaining and griping and fault-finding with God and with each other. And before you know it, even if you’re living your dream, you’ll be unhappy again.

It’s normal to complain. It’s normal to blame God for your problems. It’s normal to argue with people. But as Christ-followers, we aren’t called to be normal. We are called to be different. We’re supposed to stand out. We’re supposed to be obvious, shining like stars against the black backdrop of the empty void of space.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to be different among people who don’t believe. And the easiest way is to not complain. The easiest way to point people to Christ is to not point fingers at each other. The easiest way to be happy is to stop complaining, stop focusing on what’s wrong and start looking at what’s right.

If you do that, you’ll bring light to the people around you. If you do that, you’ll be a breath of fresh air to your office, to your home, to your school, and even to your church.

So stop complaining. Stop blaming God. Stop arguing with other people. Focus on what you’re called to do and be thankful that God has a use for you, and while you wait for further instruction, praise God for who He is and what He’s done. I guarantee you won’t be able to complain when you’re thanking God for what you have. And a thankful person is a lot more pleasant to be around than one who complains all the time.