Too much rain. Don’t like the cold. Three grocery stores to get what I need. Backaches. No nibbles on the hook. Gets dark too early. Too much work. Not enough energy. Family. Life is hard. Hate my job. Too darn hot. Bedhead. Nothing to wear. Too much traffic. Crazy drivers.
If any of these sound familiar, and you may add your own list, then confess it. You are a grumbler. At some point in your day – yes, even at many points in your day – you find reason to proliferate a palpable rhythm of complaint. Perhaps you voice it out loud, or perhaps you keep it to yourself. That makes no difference. You, my friend, are a grumbler.
One of my devotional authors, Paul David Tripp, confronts our grumbling with truth that should hurt.
“This world is terribly broken.”
“If you put yourself in the center of your world, you will find plenty of things to complain about.” Ouch. Are you aware that the most consistent idol in your life is yourself?
“If you believe in God and his control over everything that exists, then you have to accept that all of your grumbling is ultimately grumbling against him.” Double ouch, and please, God, don’t get so close to my brokenness. Then I have to deal with it.
There is a difference, I believe, between grumbling in the best of times and expressing sadness, loss, anxiety and fear in the worst of times. I’ve dealt with this conundrum for quite some time now and attempted to make sense of it, especially in terms of my own spiritual health.
I recently saw a friend whose own long-term grief came quickly to the surface as our hearts understood as only two broken hearts can – that the pain and agony of loss sends us wandering in what we might call Moses’ modern day wilderness.
Everything is different. Not one thing remains the same, and we struggle to allow God to lead us forward as only he can. We fight with our spirit to have faith, to trust, to yield, to let go and to move forward. Can we call this grumbling?
There are two possible scenarios. First, it is grumbling when we fail to acknowledge the nature of momentous change and that there will be a time of adjustment and learning to live a new sort of life. I have learned that in the dark times of deep suffering, God can work more profoundly with a broken heart because he is busy building up when all we may want to do is succumb to the awful agony of pain. Many friends of mine have acknowledged this struggle; as they confront it, they express the realistic and heart-rending effects to God.
Second, it is grumbling when we cannot allow ourselves to sense any blessings whatsoever in our lives. I’m thinking of my “widda women,” who open their hearts to me, helping me to confront the truth of change and to face my altered self and world. I’m thinking of the books I have read and continue to read that provide comfort and encouragement as I travel this journey. I’m treasuring my journal, where I write out my best and worst days and experiences, one day perhaps to look back to see exactly how God works through the worst of times.
“The joy or complaint of your heart always shapes your willingness to trust God and to do his will. Complaining forgets God’s grace,” Tripp writes (New Morning Mercies, April 25).
Grumbling for grumbling’s sake is nothing more than a focus on self. It’s time to think outside the fortress you have built around your “self.” It is a challenging task, whether your life is full of blessing or currently in a state of wandering through a wilderness.
Are you ready to grumble? Think about why that might be the case.