We’re a little less than half-way through the Lenten Period and I’d love to report that I’ve been doing swimmingly with my fast from complaining but…it’s truly astonishing how easy it is to slip into grouse mode! Even when I am consciously trying my best not to complain, I’ll suddenly realize I am in mid-complaint! Usually, though, it’s not something I figure out I’ve done until I reflect on the events of the day; frustration I felt, conversations I had.
Even if I haven’t literally voiced a complaint, they still find their sneaky slithery way into my thoughts, sort of like that infamous snake I’ve heard tell of who hung out in a garden with some naked folks. If I notice they’re there, I have a choice to either try my best to banish them or to give up and let them have their way. If I don’t notice their presence, the risk is high that they may fester, which almost guarantees they’ll gush forth at some (most likely inopportune) time. Obviously the best course is never to allow them entrance in the first place but that, I am finding, is easier said than done.
As it would happen, two of my scripture readings this morning dealt with complaining. In Exodus 17:1-7, I read about those ungrateful, whining Israelites having a hissy fit in the Wilderness of Sin (yes, the actual name of the Wilderness) because they’re thirsty and there is no water and what the heck is Moses trying to do to them, kill them? Where is this God, anyway? This after “this God”, with the help of Moses (whom they are ready to turn on and stone to death), just delivered them from 400 years of oppression and slavery, and, yet; they are already complaining and ready to give up and go back to being slaves.
“Oh those wacky Israelites!” those of us who know how the story turned out might be thinking smugly to ourselves, “All they had to do was put their trust in God; obey him and love him, and everything would eventually be ok!”
Yeah, well. Thousands of years later, nothing much has changed.
Not one thing God has done for us has passed before we begin to complain that He’s letting us suffer in our own Wilderness of Sin. I know I do. The Lord saves my beloved Pete…I start grousing about the cost of the new food he needs to be on. The Lord has provided clients for our business…I am pissed off about the income tax we now owe. My dear neighbor across the street is wasting away from cancer; I am healthy…I grouse about “being fat”. His wife is soon to be a widow for the second time; my husband is a very real presence…I complain that he snores, or is distracted by his work, or…or…or…
Then, when real tragedy strikes, do I complain even more, or do I cry out to God to help me?
Thankfully, God is faithful, even though I am not.
The other passage I read was: “And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” 1 Corinthians 10:10. I’ve run across a few people in my life who were miserable; who spent so much of their time in the occupation of the “C’s”: Controlling, Criticizing and Complaining”, that the dissatisfaction and anger emanated from their entire being.
Bitterness takes its toll, indeed. The destroyer destroys completely.
It’s true, I think, that misery loves company. Many times when I’ve been riled up about something, I want to share it with another person. I feel the need to state whatever my complaint is and get agreement from them that, yes indeed, it’s terrible! Then, off we may go together down a long path of whining and complaining that ends up getting us both lost in the wilderness of a total waste of time.
Other times, the person to whom I’m speaking may chose to not buy into my rant. My husband is good at this; he’ll simply look at me. Admittedly, it’s a bit frustrating at first, but, really, what can I do but shut up at this point? More often than not, whatever the nit-noid was eventually dissipates into the void.
And, when something is important enough to be addressed, hopefully, then, I’ll have the strength to do so because the wind in my sails wouldn’t have been blown away by trivial matters. I must recall all of the times I’ve found strength to get through a difficult time or situation; and to remember from whom my strength comes from.
“I know what it is to have little and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
Thanks be to God.