Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 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, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
I have a very sweet friend whom is a woman that I want to be like. When I watch her, interact with her, and learn from her, I always find myself thinking how she is the type of woman described in 1 Peter 3. So one day I sought her out and asked her if she would be willing to spend time with me, so I could learn to follow after the godliness I see in her. She joyfully agreed and we began to meet together. The last time that she was here, she was telling me about a change that is coming in her life. As the fullness of what it meant hit, her, she was SO careful about the words that she used. She stopped herself one time and said, “No, that would be complaining.” She went on to tell me how one day when she was disappointed over something, God gave her the picture of a petulant child who wasn’t happy with the precious gift in hand, but was complaining and demanding more.
At the time, I remember thinking that was really good, but the fullness of what she said didn’t hit me until today. My child was whining and complaining because he wasn’t getting to play with the toy that his little brother was playing with. It didn’t matter to him that he had gotten to play with a nicer, different toy (or that his brother didn’t get to play with that toy). He wanted what he wanted and until he got it, he was going to throw a fit. Now, we don’t allow our children to behave this way. I sent him away to gather control of himself and when his behavior grew worse, I sent him to his dad for punishment. When he finally calmed down, I asked him to come talk to me. We talked about Philippians 2:14 which he has memorized. We discussed how the complaining is essentially telling God that He didn’t do enough for us. That His gifts are good enough for us. I asked Ryan how he would feel if he gave someone a new toy train and they responded, “I want the track!” Ryan agreed that the whining wasn’t pleasing to God. We also talked about considering others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Then I let him go, but I realized later that I didn’t give him the ammunition that he needed when these feelings of not having enough arise!
I didn’t remind him to rejoice in what we do have. It’s there, just four verses after the one about not complaining! “Likewise, you should be glad and rejoice with me.” Paul rejoiced through great suffering and as believers, we have more reason than anyone to rejoice!
A second weapon I should have given Ryan was to find things for which to be thankful. “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) When we stop and look at the many, many reasons that we have to be thankful, it is difficult to continue complaining.
As I continued pondering these things, I realized that I am just as guilty as my son of whining. When the budget doesn’t balance. When the car breaks down. When the boys are constantly disobedient. When it’s too hot. When I don’t want to work. When I’m sleepy. So often, I am so quick to complain about my circumstances, rather than show gratitude for the incredible gifts God has given me right now.
So I am going to work on being more thankful. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has some wonderful resources on her website. In this case, I found a 30 Day Challenge for Growing in Gratitude, so let the thankfulness begin!