It’s easy to complain. I work with people who easily find things to complain about, and from time to time, I’m right in there with them. It’s not that we really have it so rough, but rather that we don’t always have it our way.
But this past Sunday, my pastor delivered a message on complaining that really served as a gut punch.
He gave the illustration of the people of Israel heading toward the Promised Land. God tells them they will persevere, but when they hear that people in the one city that remains between them and their land are the size of giants, the people easily forget God’s promise:
Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”
Despite God’s plan, they allowed their complaining to lead them to appoint a new leader to go back against God.
My pastor pointed out that complaining will become your leader if you allow it to, and it’s not that difficult to have that happen.
How does God feel about it? His reaction was clear:
The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.
God didn’t take it well. What’s interesting to me here is that the people weren’t so much complaining intentionally against God Himself but against their situation. That feels to most of us like a complaint that is in no way aimed at God. But all that complaining against everything is, in God’s eyes, a complaint against Him.
5 Negative Effects of Complaining
- It stops forward momentum.
- It fosters dissatisfaction in others.
- It out-volumes and squelches appreciation.
- It becomes a way of thinking.
- It becomes your vision and your leadership.
I just heard another pastor speak of the concept of “troubleshooting.” As Christians, we are called to be the problem solvers, not the problem proclaimers. If our God is our strength and our hope, what, exactly, should we have to complain about? We’re supposed to be the troubleshooters. We’re supposed to be the encouragers, the motivators, the accomplishers.
Sure, there may be situations that suck. But there comes a point at which we have to stop and ask ourselves this important question if we’re going to call ourselves Christian: is the situation bigger than God?
Told you it was a gut-punch.
I’ve seen first-hand in the workplace how much damage complaining can do. Unfortunately, we live in an age of complaining. It’s easier to whine than it is to solve problems. And I even see that when we try to take steps to solve problems, people would rather complain about that. It even happens when specific things complained about are fixed or improved.
Here in South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham is being criticized for, among other things, that dinner with President Obama designed to open up dialog about the debt crisis. People want a solution. Yet when the two parties try to come together to at least create a spirit in which a compromise might be found, those same people complain about the methods.
Sometimes, I want to go up to these people and just shake them: What do you want?
And sometimes, I realize I’m one of the ones who needs to be shaken, too.