Tag Archives: complaining

camping, complaining, and the condition of our hearts

My husband, our three kiddos, and I went camping in the Adirondacks a couple of weeks ago. It was a really good trip – the kids are at such great ages for it. We saw bugs and toads and deer and even a black bear! Our son had a whole day of man-time with his daddy in a canoe, and I shopped with my girls in the little town nearby and took them swimming in a lake with the mountains in view. But despite all of the good stuff, my middle daughter found something – no, everything – to complain about.

camping, complaining, and the condition of our heartsLet’s see…She complained that the car was too hot. The trip was too long. Having the windows down was too windy. There was a bug in the car. She was hungry. And thirsty. We were going too fast. The roads were too hilly. It was too hot when we arrived at our camp. And there were bugs in the woods. She was hungry and thirsty. She didn’t get the top bunk. She didn’t like the chairs we had. The fire was too smokey. There weren’t enough water bottles. Her water bottle was dirty. She didn’t want to eat chicken. Or hot dogs. Or sandwiches. She couldn’t use the iPad. She couldn’t go to the bathroom alone. The shower was weird. She wanted to stay up later. The slides at the water park we went to were too steep. The water was too cold. She was hungry and thirsty. She wanted a different towel. Our hike was too long, and it was hot outside. We brought the wrong snacks. She wanted to wear different shoes, but without socks. The ride to and from the hike was too long and hilly. The ride back home was too long, and we went too fast. And she was hungry and thirsty.

I almost. Went. Insane. But God really showed me a LOT from enduring all of that complaining.

Complaining can be expressed in a lot of different ways.

Of course when we think of complaining we think of finding faults or problems with things that aren’t really that big of a deal. But that’s not the only way that we tell others that we’re dissatisfied. My husband and I have movie nights sometimes, and when he picks a movie I don’t like I complain by doing something else while I “watch” the movie. I was at a friend’s house recently and when one of the kids didn’t get the swing they wanted, they complained by refusing to play. If someone feels that a co-worker isn’t pulling their weight, they might complain by gossiping about that person. Complaining takes a lot of different forms, and depending on the circumstance we choose which method will be most effective in communicating it and rallying others to our cause.

Complaining communicates a lot of things about who we are.

Complaining is thanklessness. Complaining is an attitude of entitlement and greed. Complaining is lazy. Complaining is arrogant. And complaining communicates a lack of contentment for what God has provided. It tells other people that we think we are the center of the universe – or at least that we think we should be.

There are things about our lives that are inconvenient, uncomfortable, and irritating – and till we get to heaven there’s nothing we can do about that. But WE are responsible for our responses. God has given us power and freedom to view our circumstances the way He wants us to, and at times even to change our circumstances – and it’s up to us to follow through.

Complaining affects the people who hear it.

There are some activities that many Christians hesitate over because they fear leading others into sin – and that’s a good thing. Drinking and entertainment are a couple of hot topics that come to mind when I think of things that might tempt another Christian to sin. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 contain instruction regarding our freedom in Christ, and not allowing our freedoms to cause others to stumble into sin – that is the context that we most often think of causing others to stumble. Sadly, I never – NEVER – considered that complaining might make others more likely to sin. But it does. Mark 9:42 shows us how seriously God takes the matter: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Wow.

Over my week of camping with my glass-half-empty daughter, I responded to her complaining in a variety of ways – some good and some bad. The good mom and Jesus follower in me answered patiently, and disciplined in love. But at other times, I lost my temper, I was sarcastic, I complained about something myself, I gossiped, or I distanced myself in an unloving way. I take ownership for every one of those responses. But what I realized was that when I complain, others are tempted to respond poorly – just like I was. When we complain, we may be causing others to stumble into their own sin in more ways than one. And as for those who are not saved, complaining will keep them from seeing Christ in us. 

Complaining is a condition of the heart.

Complaining is more than just a statement about something we don’t like – it’s a condition of the heart. God is our provider, and the Bible tells us that He will always give us what we need (Luke 12:22-34). So we don’t need more than what He provides for us! Philippians 2:14-15 tells us that we should do all things without complaining so that we can be a light in a dark world…so that we can be set apart…and set apart is what it means to be HOLY! In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says that he had learned to be content in any and every circumstance, and that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him – I can only imagine how difficult it was sometimes to be content in jail as he was, and persecuted as he was.  But the same power that rested on Paul rests on us…The same God that empowered Paul empowers us…The same Jesus that saved Paul saved us. And Jesus is enough. Always. If our hearts truly believe that He is enough, we will find nothing to complain about.

My family survived our camping trip, and I’m really glad we went. The same daughter who complained about so much is also the one who is fearless to try new things, who is crazy fun to be around, and who loves to sing songs about Jesus. I feel like God allowed me to catch just a glimpse of what He sees in our hearts when we complain. My prayer is that He will teach me, and all of us, to live a life overflowing with thankfulness toward Him for all that He has graciously given to us.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]With a grateful heart, Melissa[/custom_headline]

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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by stillwellmike http://flickr.com/photos/stillwellmike/9539948576 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license