Complaining has become a way of life for some. Take the frustrated thief on the cross who Christ, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” Then there was the situation about Martha and Mary. We are going to place these two sisters together because the Bible says “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). Martha seemed to have been an anxious and high spirited woman who wanted to be helpful in providing food and comfort for Jesus; while Mary was more concerned with sitting at his feet and learning of him. When Martha complained about Mary not helping, Jesus did not correct her; instead, he said that Mary had chosen the right place at the time. “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NKJV).
Nowhere in Scripture is complaining more prominent than the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt. The Lord provided for them: release from bondage; rescue at the Red Sea; bitter water replaced by sweetwater; manna and quail; daily guidance – by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire; and finally, the Ten Commandments. Despite all this, we see a constant pattern of murmuring from the Israelites.
Complaining (murmuring) is the outward demonstration of a critical spirit. The thoughts and intents of our heart will come out of our mouth (Matthew 15:18 NKJV). A critical spirit fosters bitterness and anger. Others will view a complainer as a malcontent. Nothing is ever enough to him/her. No matter how good or unlikeable something or someone is, the ungrateful person will always find fault.
The Israelites complained three days after receiving the Ten Commandments (Numbers 11:1 NKJV). They were focused on the wilderness rather than the Promised Land. God heard their complaining and sent judgement. How naïve we are to think that God will somehow overlook ungratefulness. Complaining always brings consequences.
Can a complainer change? Can he/she overcome his/her critical spirit? Here are two steps to prayerfully consider:
- Renounce Ungratefulness – Call complaining (murmuring) what it is – SIN! No one can do this for you. If you are going to get out of the mental rut you’re in, you must be honest about sin. David said that God desired truth in his inward parts (Psalms 51:16 NKJV). Agreeing with God about sin is the first step toward repentance. Trust God to lift you out of the miry clay of ungratefulness that has engulfed you. When you catch yourself complaining, renounce and repent.
- Replace Ungratefulness – It is not enough to just try harder. You must begin practicing gratitude. Thankfulness is the heart attitude that will displace the ungrateful spirit that has tormented you. Let me illustrate: A young lady realized that she wasn’t enjoying life. She described herself as stuck on a treadmill. Her critical spirit was hurting those she loved the most. She was advised to spend time daily reflecting on her blessings. So, she began taking daily photos of things for which she was grateful for. It changed her life. She began noticing little things that she had missed. In the picture where her husband was serving dinner, he put the largest portion on her plate. She had never noticed that! It was his way of preferring her and showing her how much he loved her. Previously, she had found mothering a boring job. To her delight, the photos of her kids revealed them holding out their hands to her, playing and exploring. She began discovering how much joy and wonder there was in her world that she had missed. Ungratefulness had been robbing her of all of these joys.
You may not be able to rake pictures. That’s Okay. Make a list. Start by thanking God and others each day for the blessings they bring into your life.