Today is “quarantine” day 40 for me.
40 days of going nowhere, except for an occasional walk in the neighborhood with my wife. On day 30 I thought about singing the old song “30 Days in the Hole.” Didn’t sing it – not the best lyrics. Yesterday in a “Zoom” prayer meeting, a friend of mine mentioned that after God brought Israel out of Egypt they wandered through the desert for 40 years. 40 years! And they didn’t even have TV or Facebook or Zoom. And I have been tempted to be unhappy about 40 days. I guess it could always be worse.
Which got me thinking afresh about grumbling and complaining.
Most of the time, we do this without giving it much thought. I mean, it feels kind of natural. Grumbling doesn’t seem like a sin. Complaining feels like the natural thing to do when you have to wait 3 days to get your groceries delivered. Is it that wrong?
First of all, this is a horrible time and so many have died and suffered horribly with this sickness. So many have lost loved ones. I cannot even begin to fathom how painful and sad and horrific this has been for so many. Maybe it is not even a good time to bring up this topic. I am not talking about sharing our struggles, pain, sadness, and misery. The complaining I am talking about is the kind I am tempted to do. To be grumpy about not being able to leave my house or be bored or have to wear gloves at the gas pump or a mask in the store.
It is not wrong to bring our suffering, sadness, discouragements or frustrations to the Lord to ask for his help. Neither is it wrong to share our struggles or pain with others, that they might pray for us or encourage us. But sometimes we grumble and complain because we don’t get what we want, or because we do not trust that the Lord is sovereign, good, and loving. There is appropriate sharing of our suffering. For example, I have friends who are suffering severely with sickness. When I ask them how they are doing I want them to tell me honestly. When they do, that is not sinful complaining and grumbling.
In this article I want to talk about grumbling and complaining in any situation, RATHER than turning to the Lord for help.
First of all God’s commands us not to grumble:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing Philippians 2:14
So when we grumble and murmur in any situation, we disobey God. Complaining is a sin. It is disobeying God’s command to rejoice always and in everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). So if for no other reason than to complain is to sin, we should not do that.
Why is complaining a sin?
Complaining is a sin because it is an act of unbelief.
When we grumble about anything, we are saying that God is not good. We are saying that He is not sovereign, that he is not wise or loving to allow us to go through whatever we are going through. A good question to ask ourselves when we are tempted to mutter is “What am I believing about God right now?” Do I believe He is loving? Do I believe he is in complete control of all things? Do I believe He causes all things to work together for my good?
Complaining is a sin because when we do we are not living by faith, but by our feelings.
We are focusing on our circumstances, not God. We are trusting ourselves more than God.
Complaining is a sin because when we grumble we think only of ourselves.
Hey, it is MY will that matters. MY happiness. MY plans. I’m not getting what I want. Hey, I know what is best for me.
Complaining is a sin because it is a bad witness.
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
When we grouse and whine, we are not “blameless and innocent” – we are not acting like “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” We are failing to “shine as lights in the world.”
People are watching us, especially when we go through hard times. Unbelieving friends and relatives are watching us. Our children are watching us. When Paul and Barnabas were arrested unjustly and beaten and thrown into prison, the other prisoners watched them…
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them… Acts 16:25
Paul and Barnabas were probably bloody and bruised. They were in some kind of “bonds” (v26), probably some kind of stocks or chains. If anyone had reason to complain it would have been them. But instead, they were praying and singing hymns to God. They were shining like lights in that black prison. And when God sent an earthquake and all the prisoners’ bonds fell off and the prison doors were opened, none of the other prisoners tried to escape. They watched Paul and Barnabas to see what they would do. And when the jailer, thinking that everyone had escaped was about to kill himself, Paul stopped him and told him that everyone was still there. So the jailer fell down trembling and cried out “What must I do to be saved?” And Paul and Barnabas were able to lead him and his whole family to the Lord.
People are watching us. Are we shining like lights in this dark world? Or do we act just like everyone else?
Complaining is a sin because when we complain we influence others to do the same.
Again, what kind of example are we setting for our friends and children and co-workers?
And complaining is a sin because when we do, we are thinking only of ourselves.
We are certainly not thinking about Jesus and what we can do to glorify him. We aren’t thinking about those we are influencing. It’s all about ME. What I want. My time. My pleasure. My finances. What I am not getting. What I have to go through. ME, ME, ME.
In addition to all these things, grousing and grumbling DOESN’T CHANGE A THING!
It doesn’t make anything better. It certainly won’t move the Lord to bless us. It won’t kill the corona virus. It won’t make this time of quarantine the least bit more pleasant or short. Whining just makes us feel worse. Makes us more miserable. More negative. It robs us of joy.
Well, you might ask…
WHAT SHOULD WE DO INSTEAD OF COMPLAINING?
First, we can do nothing in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help and grace to keep all his commands. So first we should:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
It’s humbling to admit we need God’s help. It’s humbling to admit we aren’t in control. That we are weak and needy. But when we humble ourselves before God he “exalts us” – that is he lifts us up. And God wants us to cast all our anxieties on him, because amazingly, he cares for us. The God who created the universe deeply cares for you and me.
So rather than grumble, let’s pray. Let’s ask God to give us strength and patience and joy in this time. And let us ask God to help us obey his command to rejoice and give thanks:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We don’t rejoice and give thanks because people are sick and dying, or because we are out of work or stuck in our homes, but we rejoice in God. We rejoice and give thanks that God is sovereign, and that he is working all things together for our good. We rejoice that he loves us, and that he sent his Son to die for our sins and save us from God’s wrath and adopt us as his children. We rejoice that someday we will be with him, gazing upon his infinite beauty, and there will be no more tears and sadness. And another thing we can do…
We should try to get our minds off ourselves – to think about how we can serve others, take an interest in others, encourage others.
Even as I was working on this blog post I got a text from a man in our church that said, “Good morning Mark thinking and praying for you and your family.” That is how to overcome the temptation to complain and grumble – to think and pray for others.
How can we pray for those we know who are sick, or working on the front lines in hospitals, personal care homes or in missions? How can we help those in need? How can we serve our families and friends in this time? The more we can focus on the Lord and others, the less we will be tempted to complain about what we don’t have or can’t do.
I’m sure there are many more things we can do to combat our corona complaining. How about you? What have you found that helps you?
Lord Jesus, help us. Help us remember to cast our cares on you. Help us to shine like lights in this dark world. We need you Lord. We want to glorify you in everything we do and say and think. Thank you that you care for us so much, and thank you that you will help us in this time and always.