What was the most creative punishment you received as a child? I had a few, but the one that stands out the most to me is The List of Complaints.
When I was a kid, I got into the nasty habit of complaining. One day, my mom got fed up and told me to go write a list of all the things I complained about regularly (I don’t know what she was so upset about, I could only think of a few things to write down ;).
Then came the nasty bit: she made me wear the list around my neck. And she told me I couldn’t take it off, not even when we went to the grocery store! For a little girl whose aim in life was to be invisible, this was a truly mortifying thought.
Thankfully, my mother showed grace and relented, but even the thought of the punishment kept me from complaining. Well, almost.
We all complain from time to time, don’t we? How else are we to be honest when people ask how we’re doing? How else do we ask for prayer? Sometimes, we feel the need to be real with people and we don’t hold back.
And this is acceptable. Complaining is only addressed as an issue when we are told we complain ‘too much’ or ‘about everything.’ But I’m beginning to wonder how much is too much.
In Exodus, when the Israelites are complaining to Moses, he tells them something interesting;
“Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.”
When I read this the other day, it hit me right between the eyes. I’ve been a bit whiny lately because that job I’ve been begging God to provide my husband with is keeping him out of the house a lot. I won’t lie, there’s been a bit of grumbling going on in my heart.
But not a lot. And so long as I don’t complain ‘too much,’ I’m good, right?
I don’t think so. I think that any complaining against God is ‘too much.’
Basically, complaining is telling God that what He has given me is not good enough, and that I don’t think I can trust Him to give me anything better.
When I think of complaining that way, I honestly don’t know how I have the audacity to do it at all.
Do let me be clear on this; when I say complaining, I mean complaining, not crying out to God for help. Crying out as the Psalmist frequently does, comes from a place of humility and the Bible encourages us to beseech the Lord.
My complaints come from a place of entitlement and pride. They are me telling God I deserve better than what He’s giving me.
Complaining also poisons our mood and robs us of our peace and joy.
Obviously, it’s unhealthy to never open up to people and we all need prayer and help. So when does opening up turn into complaining? I’m betting we each know when we go from ‘prayer requests’ to ungrateful whining. I know I certainly do. There’s that soft whisper from the Holy Spirit asking me whether or not He’s enough.
I think when it comes to complaining, there is no sliding scale. It doesn’t matter how often we do it, it’s still wrong. So I’m resolving not to do it anymore, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit of course.
I’m resolving that God is enough for me. That what He gives me is for my good, and what He holds back is for my good. I’m accepting that He owes me nothing and that every breath is a merciful gift. And in the light of that gift, there is no room for complaints.
Who’s with me?