If complaining is the manifestation of heart-mumblings and frustrations at what is happening to me at a certain point, then contentment may be defined as a heart-rooted and solid satisfaction in God that does not shift with external circumstances. Jeremiah Burroughs once said: “Christian happiness, or contentment, is the exact opposite of a complaining spirit.” So in uprooting the monster-sin of complaining and cultivating contentment, what is to be done? How can we, enabled and empowered by God who so mightily and powerfully works within us, cultivate this blessed, satisfying, and necessary trait of contentment?
THE CORRUPTION OF COMPLAINING
Everyone does it. It’s all around us. In fact, it’s so normalized and pervasive that we hardly even recognize when it actually occurs. The sin of complaining is one of those “respectable sins.” That is, it’s one that’s hardly spoken about, seldom preached against, and still less frequent, a sin with which Christians persistently wage violent war. Complaining is ugly. Complaining is one of the most commonest and frequent sins that’s almost as easy to find and common as the air we breathe.
Complaining isn’t, however, the real issue. Complaining is the outward manifestation of other heart-sins taking place in that moment. Let’s diagnose complaining. When we complain, we manifest three heart-sins that are all taking place together.
First, complaining manifests an attitude of “deservedness.” It’s like saying: “I’m not getting what I feel like I deserve!” Or, to state the opposite: “I am getting what I don’t think I deserve.” And in that moment of a complaint, we soar to the realms of deservedness, specifically, that we deserve something good or better than what we’re actually experiencing.
Second, complaining manifests an attitude of “disbelief.” In the moment of a complaint, the mumbler’s saying something like this: “God, I don’t think you’re doing what’s good, or what’s best, or what’s right, or what’s wisest at this moment.” It’s almost as if the complainer is craftily suggesting to the Omniscient God: “Lord, I feel as though you’ve made a mistake and that you should do things my way as that would have a better outcome.”
Third, complaining manifests — or, leads to — an attitude of “ingratitude.” Obviously, in the moment of a pity party or whining, a person isn’t thinking about the majesty and dominion of God nor of the overflowing waves of grace that has swept over him. Rather, in complaining-times, we don’t thank God because we, frankly, don’t think we’re getting what we deserve. And this self-centered, self-focused, self-exalted, self-idolatrous mindset never leads one to praise and thank God in that moment.
The corruption of complaining is that it is a very sly assault and it is a frontal attack on the goodness of God. Complaining is a sin where the sinful heart of man rises up against God and draws the weapon and aims it at the goodness of His Person and at the wisdom of His plan and at the sovereignty of His rule. O may God deliver us from this monster of complaining!
THE KILLING OF COMPLAINING
Can this monster be killed? Is it possible to slay the dragon? Like all sin, there’s no pill to take to ensure a once-for-all removal of this sin — especially, the heart-rooted, subtle monster — but the good news is that by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with the sufficient and heart-transforming power of the Word of God, in the context of the local church, and with diligent effort, by God’s enabling grace, every true child of God can — and must! — constantly be vigilant to kill this monster of complaining.
We can think of complaining as being synonymous with grumbling, whining, making a fuss, criticizing, happily finding fault with something/someone, griping, moaning, objecting, and even protesting. The Word of God is not silent about this and provides much help to weed out the roots of this sin.