"Do all things without complaining and disputing," Philippians 2:14
Do you ever think about how often you complain? I honestly think we're living in a time and culture where we're being trained to complain. Shops, stores, and restaurants have policies where the customer is always right- and as a customer, if we complain about something, maybe we'll be lucky enough to score a discount or even a freebie. We have reality television where everyone at home becomes a critic- whether it's about something artistic, something to eat, or the way someone has decorated their home. It seems to me that in order to really defeat complaining, we really, really have to be vigilant, because it's always there, just waiting to strike at any moment. And it happens to all of us.
Two weeks ago we had our first real, hot days of summer. We've had a cold spring, and other than those two steamy days, we've had quite the cold summer as well. Wouldn't you know, the first hot day hits and EVERYONE is complaining about how hot it is. Just two days earlier everyone was moaning about how it seems like we're never going to get summer. For myself, it's been a cool and rainy week, and we're getting ready to go camping next week. I'm excited to see that it's actually supposed to warm up for us, and we'll have a great summery week. Except that I'd really prefer if it wouldn't get so warm while I'm away, because I won't be around to water the garden. See? Always something to complain about.
Even within the church, we are trained to have a critical eye and find something to complain about. When we're looking for a new church, we make a list of things we're looking for and a list of things we don't want. And then we walk into a new church ready to find all the bad, instead of just saying "Okay, God, bless me and my family, bless this church this morning for hosting us, and if this is the church home you have for us, we ask that you make that clear to us." That would be too easy. Instead we find things to complain about- the music is to loud, or the offering should have been taken at a different time, or the lack of small groups in the church is disturbing to us. Wouldn't it be better to look at the whole experience as to what you could possibly do to make that church your home? Maybe you have a talent for sound engineering- what you don't know is that his church doesn't have that person, and that's why the music is so loud.
I just think it's time for us, as a church, to set an example for all the world around us to stop complaining! We complain about each other even- and social media is clearly making it much worse. We can go all the way back in our Bibles and see that the Israelites, during what should have been the most glorious time of their lives, sought fit to complain...
"Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness." Exodus 16:2
You know, there are times I read the story of the Exodus, and I see all the complaining done by the Israelites, and I think "what a bunch of whiners", and then I'll turn around and do the exact same thing and complain about something that I shouldn't. It's time to stop. It's time to start training ourselves to be more like Jesus and look for the good in everything instead of the bad. Because the fact is, when we look for the bad, we become bad-focused, and soon that will be all we see- all the faults and negatives. When we start behaving like a Pollyanna, and look for the good or the glad in everything, then we learn to be a little more like Jesus. Jesus himself certainly didn't complain about anything, and if anyone had reason to complain, it would certainly be him!
Think about it. He had multitudes of people following him wherever he went- he didn't get a moment's peace! And many of those people were far from homes- and away from bathing and clean clothing, so surely many of them smelled something horrific. And then there were all the disease ridden- the lepers with body parts literally rotting and falling off. Did Jesus complain even once? No. Instead, He felt compassion and great love, and he did what he could for the people who followed him. He healed those who came to him, and he loved on those who needed to be loved. He didn't complain even once.
So in the week ahead, I want to challenge all my readers to focus on not complaining. Start by not letting the complaints come out of your mouth. When there is opportunity to complain, just don't do it, keep it to yourself. And then take the next step and look more closely at the situation. Find something- anything, no matter how small- to be thankful, happy or glad about, and give voice to that instead. It may take great effort at times, but I know I'll be practicing that myself during the next week- so you won't be doing it alone.
Have a blessed and wonderful week. I'll see you on the flip side of our time away, and hopefully I will come back fully rested and full of all sorts of wonderful goodness that God has shared with me.