Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
How many times each day do you complain about something? I know I am guilty of this – my wife reminds me. But it’s so easy to complain about the small issues of life. Is it possible to live a life of no complaints?
Often it’s a habit we get into and it’s hard to break—but it has a negative impact not only on yourself, but on those around you. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says ‘a complaint is expressing grief, discontent or pain’. You go out to a restaurant for a meal and the soup is cold. You speak to the waitress, My soup is cold—can you warm it up please? Fair enough. But if you say, How dare you serve me cold soup—that’s a complaint. Most of our complaining has one basis: that’s not fair. Kids often say this.
Will Bowen is a guy in America who wrote a best seller called A Complaint Free World. Three million copies sold in 30 languages. It became very popular for motivational speakers. He challenges his readers to go 21 days without complaining. And those who respond say they feel much better as a result.
Hundreds of years ago, Benjamin Franklin said, “Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy.” When Franklin wrote this there was no electricity, aspirin, penicillin, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, air travel or many of the thousands of modern niceties and so-called necessities we now take for granted. Nonetheless, he felt his contemporaries were far too cavalier about how good they had it. Franklin’s generation had much less than we do and yet we, like them, still find ample reasons to complain.
There is an old story of two construction workers sitting down to eat lunch together. The first worker opens his lunch box and complained, No! A meatloaf sandwich—I hate meatloaf sandwiches. His friend says nothing. The following day, the complaining happens again. The two meet up again for lunch. Again the first opens his lunch box, looks inside and this time more agitated said, Another meatloaf sandwich? I hate meatloaf sandwiches! As before, his colleague remains silent.
The third day, the two men gather for lunch and the first construction worker opens his lunch box and shouts, I’ve had it!! Day in and day out it’s the same thing! Meatloaf sandwiches every blessed day! I want something else! His friend asked, Why don’t you just ask your wife to make you something else. With true bewilderment on his face the first worker replied, I make my own lunch.
Hugging your ego
In Chinese, the word ‘complain’ is comprised of two symbols, ‘hug’ and ‘ego’. The Chinese believe that to complain is to ‘hug your ego’. There is profound wisdom in the pairing of these two signs to indicate the essence of complaining. When you complain you are hugging your ego.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
The Bible has quite a few examples of people complaining when they should have had a different attitude. The older versions use the word ‘murmuring’. Complaining is an outward expression of an inner discontent. The Old Testament says a lot about the children of Israel and God’s dealings with them in a very difficult world of oppression and hard times. They complained a lot and God was not happy with them. He saw their whinging as a lack of faith and trust in him. They had miraculously been set free from years of captivity and harsh treatment and God had led them out into the wilderness to escape Pharaoh.
They had been slaves—and yet they complained: Moses, I’ve got blisters on my feet—where’s the food, are we there yet? They had forgotten that God had sustained about 1 million people for over 40 years in the wilderness. He had promised Moses he would look after and sustain them—and he did. But so many of that crowd complained and refused to be content with his provision. God provided a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to guide the people. But they still complained and God became very angry over their disbelief.
What about today? When we complain, we are saying, God, you don’t know what you’re doing in my life. It’s denying God’s grace and presence in your life. It’s living as if God doesn’t exist. Let’s remember that God knows what he is doing with us—each day. We can trust him to provide and look after us. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (CEV): “Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do”.
This is not just some ‘power of positive thinking’ approach. It’s acknowledging God as the Boss in your life who loves you and will direct everything that happens to you—even the difficult moments.