The Complaining Heart
“Complaining is a cry against God; lamenting is a cry for God. Complaining is self-centered; lamenting is God centered. To complain is to cry against God’s providence; to lament is to cry over God’s providence. Therefore, complaining is always a sin, while lamenting is not.” —Tullian Tchividjian
"The whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” (Exodus 16:2 NKJV)
The Israelites were God’s chosen people. The Red Sea parts for them, and they dramatically escape enemies and bondage (Exodus 14). They praise the Lord in beautiful worship (Exodus 15:1–18), and then before we know it—just six verses later!—they start complaining. The water is bitter, and so they complain. As the story continues, they find more things about which to complain.
Before you criticize them too harshly, don’t we do the same thing?
God is active in our lives, but when our circumstances don’t line up exactly with what we want or need, we complain. The negative, grumbling spirit in us quickly covers up all that God has done for us and has promised to do for us.
When we’re in a season of loss and the good dreams for the future are gone, our first reaction is often to complain. God uproots us from our expectations. We feel He has taken something away from us. We think He’s shown us a clear picture of the future, and suddenly it’s erased. When those things happen, aren’t we a lot like these complaining people of Israel?
We need to free ourselves from the complaining heart. We need to realize that complaining isn’t how we move forward; it only takes us backward. It only opens wounds, brings bitterness, and an open door for misery. God wants an open heart—one that completely and absolutely trusts Him and seeks His hand for the next step.
We need to trust the most during times of loss. We need to trust and believe, not in our own will and ways, but in God’s promises, timing, purpose, and plan. The season of loss can be a special time for learning new ways to fully trust God and His plan for us. Embrace it.
Trust is a powerful force that changes everything. It does remarkable things in us and through us when we make the choice to stop complaining and open our hearts to His Word, His voice, and His power.
A complaining heart only leads to bitterness, loss of joy, and a feeling that you will never be satisfied. It disowns all the things that God loves.
Ask God to help you stop feeding the negative habit of complaining. Ask Him for ways you can step out of it, open your heart to Him, and start feeding a habit of giving thanks instead.
Study Psalm 51:10–13 and Galatians 5:22–23. How can these character traits help you to create a submissive and uncomplaining heart? Could memorizing these scriptures help you make better choices instead of complaining?
Understand that a habit is a learned behavior that most of us do without thinking about it. It’s like the involuntary snap of our knee when a physician strikes it with her little hammer. Habits can become second nature. Know that complaining is not a good habit and that it may be keeping you from fully realizing God’s Blessings.
By Wayne Hastings