The Cure for Complaining
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When you’re going through a rough time, it helps to put your troubles in perspective by considering what some others have gone through.
Take the apostle Paul, for example. He suffered plenty. “Five times I received forty stripes minus one,” he writes. “Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.”1
Having gone through all that, you’d think that of all people he’d have reason to complain or feel that God had maybe forsaken him. But to the contrary, he continued to trust God despite his troubles, saying: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”2 What was his secret to overcoming the obstacles? It’s found in the next verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”3 He leaned on Jesus, and Jesus gave him strength. And through this, Paul became a great man of God and an inspiration to millions ever since.
David Livingstone, called the Apostle to Africa, was born in poverty and struggled from childhood for his education, while supporting himself and his family. When he decided as a young man to spend his life as a missionary, he was mocked and scoffed at. Even those he loved tried to dissuade him. When he finally arrived in Africa, life presented one hardship after another—not only the difficulties of daily life and natural dangers but many spiritual tests as well.
Yet he looked beyond his present circumstances, as summed up in these words spoken to students at Cambridge University: “Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a forgoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink, but let this be only for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us [in heaven]. I never made a sacrifice.”4
Adoniram Judson, the pioneer missionary to Burma, persevered for 30 years despite constant sickness and persecution. It took six years for him to win his first convert, but 100 years later there were over 200,000 Christians in Burma, largely as a result of the work that he had begun.
Hudson Taylor, a great missionary to China who suffered many hardships and heartbreaks, had this to say about difficulties and trials: “All God’s dealings are full of blessing; He is good, and doeth good; good only, and continually. … We may be sure that days of adversity are still days of prosperity also, and are full of blessing. The believer does not need to wait until he sees the reason of God’s affective dealings with him ere he is satisfied; he knows that all things work together for good to them that love God.”5—Shannon Shayler
Maya Angelou is a famed American poet and author. From the age of three to seven she was raised by her grandmother, a period of calm and stability in what would be a very traumatic childhood.
Grandma ran a general store, and one thing that riled her was people complaining. They’d complain about the heat, the cold, and a myriad of other issues that Maya’s grandmother thought trivial. Whenever that occurred Maya’s grandmother would wait until the complainer left the store, call Maya over to her and say, “Did you hear what Brother So-and-So or Sister Much-to-Do complained about? There are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather that that person was grumbling about.
“So you watch yourself about complaining. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”—From storiesforpreaching.com
Whenever you are tempted to grumble, come to Me and talk it out. As you open up to Me, I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart.
There are so many things you would like to be different: in yourself, in others, in the world. Your natural tendency is to brood over these matters rather than to talk them over with Me. The longer you focus on these negatives, the more likely you are to become disgruntled. Even when you control what you say out loud, your thoughts tend to be full of complaints. Let Me help you think My thoughts.
Trust Me by opening up to Me consistently. Don’t wait till you’re already discouraged to bring Me your concerns. As we talk about these matters, remember to thank Me. In spite of how you’re feeling, you can thank Me for listening and caring; also, for loving you enough to die for you. Your gratitude will provide a helpful framework for the things that concern you. As we talk about these things, let the light of My face shine upon you. Eventually, this heavenly light will break through the fog of your mind, enabling you to see things from My perspective.
Your communion with Me will bless you in another way also: You will find in My presence irrepressible Joy. Whether or not I change your circumstances, you will discover I have given you a new song—a hymn of praise.—Jesus6
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!—2 Corinthians 9:15
You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.—Acts 2:28
Published on Anchor May 2020. Read by Jon Marc. Music by Michael Dooley.
1 2 Corinthians 11:24–26 NKJV.
2 Philippians 4:11–12.
3 Philippians 4:13.
4 Speech to students at Cambridge University (4 December 1857).
5 J. Hudson Taylor, A Ribband of Blue and Other Bible Studies (London: China Inland Mission, 1897).
6 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).