What We Do When We Grumble And How We Can Change


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, Php 2.14-15

When I was young Christian and an elementary art teacher, one day in the break room a number of other teachers were complaining about the principal. I had to leave the room. Another day a number of teachers were complaining about another teacher at lunch. I couldn’t take it any more and finally said, “I really don’t think we should be talking about this person when they’re not here to defend themselves.” I might as well have poured a bucket of ice over everyone they were so stunned and silent.  Maybe that wasn’t the wisest thing to say, but hey, I was young.

Complaining is such a way of life. How often do we start conversations by complaining about the cold or the heat? How many break rooms are filled with complaining about a boss or coworker? How much silent grumbling occurs in our heads when we have to do things we don’t feel we should have to do.

Years ago my wife got very sick and for a season I had to take up almost all of the household chores. I can remember one evening carrying a pile of clothes down to the laundry room thinking, “I shouldn’t have to do this.” I was definitely not doing all things without complaining more grumbling.

When we complain and grumble we are essentially saying I am not content with what God is doing in my life right now, which is essentially saying God is not loving or good or wise. If we grumble about the weather we’re really grumbling about the One who created the weather.  If we complain about our jobs we’re really complaining about the One who gave us those jobs.

James tells us that the cause of quarrels and anger with others is we want something and don’t get it. In some ways, grumbling is a low-grade form of anger.  We don’t get what we want so we grumble and complain.  I remember one day driving to Pittsburgh and I seemed to hit every red light.  By the third red light I was grumbling about it. Somehow I caught myself and said, “Wait a minute!  What is it that I want that I’m not getting?” And then I realized – I wanted to be God! I wanted all creation to serve me and do my will. I wanted every red light to turn green as I approached.  I wasn’t getting what I wanted so I was grumbling and complaining against God who is sovereign over all, including red lights.

The alternative to complaining and grumbling is to seek to rejoice always and in give thanks in and for everything. Even in tough situations we can thank God that he is causing them to work for our good. We can thank God for the weather. We can thank him for our boss or coworker. We can thank him for our job.  We can thank him for those household chores we don’t feel we should have to do.

The amazing thing is if we grow in thankfulness and put complaining to death God says we will be blameless and innocent and shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.  We will shine as lights in a dark world that is saturated with grumbling and complaining.  Not only that, but cultivating thankfulness will bring more joy and contentment into our lives.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.