Cassandra gives us a convicting heart check. In this article, she considers the damage complaining does to our joy and how to overcome it!
Three days. Three days of endless sand and burning blue sky without a cloud in sight. Three days of exhaustion and dehydration.
Then, they saw it—the pale sheen of sun shining on water. Water! Parched and desperate, the Israelites rushed to the shore to find that the water was bitter, unable to be consumed.
Their hopes shattered, the Israelites turned to a natural response: complaining. “What shall we drink?” they cried.
Here’s the crazy part of this passage from Exodus 16. Three days before the bitter water incident, Yahweh had parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could escape from their Egyptian captors. The Israelites had seen displays of Yahweh’s power. They knew He had power over the water.
Perhaps they simply forgot. Perhaps the present circumstances overwhelmed their past assurances.
What Complaining Does
Let’s face it; complaining is really easy to do. You can always find something wrong with your life to complain about. Unfortunately, complaining is the enemy of contentedness, and it can severely impact the quality of your life.
Complaining skews your perspective.
When you complain, you focus on the problem. Now, this problem may actually be very small, but when you focus on something, it becomes enormous.
One of my classes required twelve hours of volunteering at a social work agency throughout the semester. Because I couldn’t get a ride and had no desire to volunteer, I began bemoaning the assignment every chance I got. Suddenly, this small assignment became an unsurpassable mountain in my mind.
My eyes were fixed on the problem instead of on God. And let me tell you, problems shrink in comparison to the vastness that is God.
When you complain, you aren’t looking for a solution. Instead of fixing the problem, you vent about all the things that are wrong with your current situation, but you don’t actually want to put in the work to fix it.
With my volunteering example, my complaining was related to laziness. I didn’t want to volunteer, so I complained about the class and the professor. It shifted the blame from me to the ridiculous requirement, which actually was quite reasonable now that I look back at it. I had no desire to do the assignment. I just wanted to complain about it.
Complaining leeches your joy.
When you complain, you focus on the negative. Blessings fade from view; only problems remain. Contentedness is scorned. Gratitude becomes impossible. Life is unsatisfying because you cannot be satisfied.
When you complain, you drain the joy in your surroundings. No one wants to be around someone who’s complaining all the time. Plus, your complaints can provoke complaints from people around you, and this can create an environment of severe negativity.
For example, at my university, one of the required books receives verbal abuse from most students. It’s actually a spiritually convicting book, and at first, I loved it. However, my classmates’ complaints slowly poisoned my opinion until I, too, was complaining. I was unable to receive from God, and I didn’t grow as much as I could have.
On a more serious note, the Israelites’ complaints compounded until they were literally ready to stone Moses, their leader (Exodus 17:1-4). Further, when Moses sent twelve men into the land God had promised to give to the Israelites, ten of them returned with complaints. Worse, they “made all the congregation grumble against [Moses]” because of their report, and the Israelites began planning a journey back to Egypt (Numbers 14:36).
Despite all the miracles they had seen, the Israelites still did not trust God. Because of their lack of trust and constant complaints, God did not allow these Israelites to enter the land of His promise. Instead, they would stay in the wilderness until their death, and the next generation would enter the land of blessing.
How to Defeat the Snare of Complaining
So, how do we keep from this poisonous habit that steals our gratitude? It’s simple, really: remembrance and trust. You remember what God did in the past and trust that He will come through again in the future.
The Psalms are great examples of remembrance. Psalms 105 and 106 recall the events of the Exodus, where God brought the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt. This was supposed to help the Israelites remember God’s power so that they would trust Him, even when circumstances seemed bleak.
Further, in Psalm 77, psalmist Asaph lamented his negative circumstances but didn’t stay rooted in this negativity. Instead, he shifted his focus and wrote,
“I will remember the deeds of Yahweh; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What God is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders” (Psalm 77:11-14).
He chose to dwell on memories of God’s goodness and power rather than dwell on the darkness he faced.
When troubles are at the forefront of my mind, I forget how God has delivered me in the past, and I don’t trust Him. However, when I remember His faithfulness in the past, I am able to put my life in His hands because I know that He is a good God who will not fail me. Then I have no reason to complain.
After all, present troubles become insignificant in comparison to God and His glorious goodness.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”—Philippians 2:14-15 ESV
Bio: Cassandra loves learning that can apply to her novels, namely psychology. She wants to travel to dozens of countries and learn dozens of languages and read thousands of books, but she doesn’t have the time or money for all that because she is a college student. She hopes that her life will always glorify the name of God.