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Monday, August 4, 2008

Are You a Chronic Complainer?

Today I begin the ministry of my Monday Morning Blog. Every Monday I will share some insights from Scripture as they relate to what God is teaching me. You are invited, and encouraged, to respond with your own reflections and questions. In order to follow the thread of discussion or post a reply you will need to click on the word "comment" below this post. Beware that your comments will be accessible to all- good accountability, don't you think?

As you hopefully know by now, at least if you attend Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church (SWC) where I serve as lead pastor, we are experiencing a 30 Day Bible Living Adventure. We read a chapter each day and prayerfully apply something from that reading that God spoke specifically to our hearts and into our lives.
This morning as I read James 5 I was surprised by what struck me most. It was James 5:9 "do not complain against one another." I was surprised by this because I view myself as someone who tries to be positive about the potential of others. I try to show grace toward those who may rub me the wrong way. But, in essence, God was showing me that I am not as far along as I think I am.
My wife tends to be the safest place for me to vent my compliants about others, but God is challenging me to bring my complaints and concerns about others to Him. So, today when I am tempted to complain about people or problems, I will simply keep quiet and pray to God. I will also, in prayer, reflect upon the source of my complaint (i.e., anger, jealousy, fear, the past) as well as the good qualities of that person.
Here is the discussion question: How have you or how do you overcome the human tendency to complain against others? I'm looking forward to your comments!
Pastor Lenny


Anonymous said...

Sorry if I commented your blog, but you have a nice idea.

Unknown said...

Great question.

I find that praying for that person helps a lot. Not praying that they stop doing things that annoy you, but just praying for them and their well being.

I also find that if I can generate enough compassion for a person, it overcomes any frustration I might be feeling towards them which could lead to complaining. If I am having a hard time getting to where I feel compassion, an almost sure fire trick is to picture them as they were when they were an infant. It is hard to not like babies. For me it works, kind of like picturing an audience in their underwear to get over a fear of public speaking.

Anonymous said...

Overcoming the tendency to complain against others for me is directly correlated with my relationship with Christ. The deeper your relationship with Christ, the more you tend to leave the judging to God. I do need to be careful around my wife, Anita, since she has been with me for many years and has heard a lot of complaints, especially before joining SWC. Old habits are hard to break, so Anita still tends to hear my complaints about others, but I am much more aware and try to let God handle it.

James 5:5 states “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” As a young adult I tended to be highly self-centered and materialistic. I kept Christ at a distance. During this time in my life, I was a constant complainer. I valued my life based on my possessions and the need to keep up with the Joneses, with a quick trigger to complain about others who prevented me from reaching these earthly goals. All of these possessions did rust away and I complained some more.

During the recent years since joining SWC, I have developed a deep relationship with Christ. Daily bible reading and study and my prayer life replaced the grumbling. One of my life verses is James 5:16 which states “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” I am sharing my struggles with another man at SWC, who is an awesome accountability partner and my anger and need to complain has been greatly diminished. However, as I was discussing with Anita, as we are confessing our sins to each other, we must be careful not to complain and judge others.

In Christ, Brad

Lenny Luchetti said...

Leonard, I appreciate your comments. Pray is the very thing that generates compassion for those who are hard to love. I won't think of them as an infant, because then I thin of diapers and those things are scary (lol)! My wife and I have had five consecutive years of diaper changing. I do try to reflect upon the circumstances that make them unlovable. Perhaps they are in a miserable marriage or an awful job. Maybe they have anger issues due to past abuse or present addictions. Who knows? I find that it's easy to view someone as a monster the more I distance myself from them. When I get up the courage and compassion to move toward them, even when they're abrasive, I find that up close and personal they are not nearly as monstrous.

Hope this helps,


Lenny Luchetti said...

Hey Brad,

It's hard to imagine you as a complainer- you are one of the kindest, most gentle people I have ever met. All glory to God!

You're right. Even prayer and prayer meetings or prayer requests can turn into a gripe session if we're not careful. I call this "sanctified slander."

There is a time for constructive criticism, of course. But criticism is only constructive when it is shared in love with the person we are critiquing.



Anonymous said...

Hey Pastor Lenny,

Thanks for your kind remarks.

Being honest, accountable and transparent about ourselves frees us from our negativity.

You, the people and ministries at SWC have changed me in so many ways, causing me to become a kinder, gentler, more patient person.

One final thought is when my life becomes out of balance, I tend to complain more.

Love and prayers, Brad

Anonymous said...

I discovered in 1 Cor. 10:10 a few weeks ago that we are not to "grumble, as some of them [Israelites] did - and were killed by the destroying angel." This caught me by surprise because it was listed as a warning along with the sins of idolatry, pagan revelry, sexual immorality. I had never put complaining/grumbling in that category before. I had seen it more as an irritant. I'm not very good at generating compassion on my own power. I like to think of myself as a "jar of clay" and ask the Holy Spirit who dwells within to love that person through me. It seems to work better.

Lenny Luchetti said...

Well said Roberta. I have read that before as well and thought to myself, "oh my, complaining is in the same category as the biggies...yikes!" I believ, along with you, that the ability to love the hard to love can only be generated by the fullness of God's Spirit through us. The more I live in this world the more I believe that love is not a natural human response, despite what hollywood "chcik-flicks" may insinuate.


Anonymous said...

The other thing that I had to learn when I was in a loveless marriage is that love is a choice. It is something that one must choose to do every day. Having learned that does not mean I automatically choose to love everyone, because of my sinful nature and my own sinful desires. It's something I must choose to do. But God really doesn't take us off the hook. He tells us we must love our enemy, our neighbor, our brother and one another. That covers all the bases, which doesn't leave out anyone including family members we might not be happy with.

Anonymous said...

As I read in 1 Peter 1:16, "Be holy, because I am holy", I contemplated what can I do to “be holy.”

I decided holiness is not something you do, it's something you are. The verse does not say make yourself holy.

As we recently studied in Genesis and throughout the bible, our hearts are wicked. That’s probably why we complain so much!

You do not get saved or stay saved by your works. Romans 10:10 tells us that “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

It’s about believing. I continue praying as the father did in Mark 9:24, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" I will try my best by reading and studying much from the Bible, and praying alot to God for wisdom to make right decisions in life. Also, I am trying to love everyone, which can be challanging.

I constantly reflect back on our team covenant from our Brazilian mission trip---”I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.---Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

Do you have any thoughts on living a holy life?

ginabad said...

Well, here I just stumble on your blog after so long, and it's a topic that God has REALLY been working through with me!

We've been through an extraordinarily rough couple of weeks. I won't say I didn't get through them without complaining, but I have been dedicated daily to listening to Joyce Meyer, and I'm gradually learning that complaining is something that only makes ME (and those around me) more miserable, and it really grieves God. So I would say in this latest span of struggle, I held on far tighter to the Lord than ever and ran my mouth far less.

One incident involved a terrible accusation from a trusted group. I just kept repeating, "No weapon formed against me can prosper." Over and over. This has been a person we have struggled with for some time now. When I looked at her with Godly vision, though, rather than hate or judgement, I saw a woman suffering terrible pain, sorrow, and anxiety. So I decided to pray for her. The situation passed, and from it, we decided to use a service that is a far better blessing to our kids than we could have imagined. So from this strife, came a silver lining. Rather than grumble, pray for your oppressor and see them as God sees them, and remember that God will protect you. Six months ago, I couldn't stand this person, but now, I honestly hope this woman finds God and finds peace from whatever is causing her to wear so much pain on her face.

Another thing I've learned is to praise God in the storm, and by this, I mean even thank Him for the bad stuff. This is extremely difficult, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, happens without a purpose that God can use for good. So I am grateful for the strife, because this time around, I learned to step out of the lean back and completely trust God. The resolution to the situation was also painful and bitter, but I still think it's a learning and growing device for me to fulfill God's purposes. So thank you, God, for this cross to bear.

And finally, it always hits me when I hear preaching about the Israelites leaving the dessert and actually have the nerve to say to Moses, "We were better off as slaves". Can you imagine? But it also makes me think about how INCREDIBLY blessed I am, and how sometimes I'm just as ungrateful as those Israelites, if not more. To have health, home, happiness and security in this day and age is REALLY big. So thank you God, for the blessings, because honestly they are too many to count. And they start with You being my Friend.

Am I done with complaining? I WISH! But now I am aware EVERY TIME I do it, and I'm aware of the pain it causes. Letting go the grumbling and taking on the praise not only enriches my relationship with God, it makes life AND people more enjoyable - even when it's hard.

peace out-
Gina Fosco

Lenny Luchetti said...

Brad and Gina, thanks for your profound comments. Brad, my thoughts about living a holy life have evolved. I used to think I had to try hard to be holy, you know, grind my teeth together and make holiness just ooze out of me. Over the years I have come to realize that the key to holiness is not what I do but what Christ does in me as I yield my life, my decisions, my words, my desires, and my ambtions to His will. It's certainly not that I always live with this kind of submission, but when I do holy living seems to happen without the grinding of my teeth. So, the key is moving toward Him and then he makes me holy.

Gina, it's been great to read your thoughts too. I miss you, Chris and those precious little girls! Your SWC family would love to see you one of these Sundays. God has clearly been teaching you some valuable lessons. It's interesting how the most painful experiences we endure at the hands of those who disappoint us become the teaching tools of God to cultivate "Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Col.1:27). It's not that God causes our pain, but he takes the pain inflicted by others and can use that pain for his redemptive purposes in our lives. The greatest lessons I've learned about God,I've learned in the midst of pain and disappointment. Perhaps that's the time when we humans are most teachable.

Hope to see you soon,


Anonymous said...

Oh, how I wish I could say that I've learned to curb my tongue! I have gotten better, but in the growing have become so aware of how often I slip. There's much I agree with in the other comments . . . The one thing I can add, is that when God pulls me up short and shows me the ugliness of my thoughts and words, He challenges me to look inside. What need am I filling by complaining, gossiping, down-grading others? I’m realizing that to “be better” or superior to others is one way I make myself feel better about my own inadequacies. If I pull others down, I can stand above them . . . This is so ugly and disappointing (I thought I had grown past that!) , it sends me right back to Him to be cleaned up!

Lenny Luchetti said...

Well said, Miki. Our weaknesses can either lead us further from God in guilt or closer to God in hopeful repentence. There's a verse in 1 Cor that describes the difference between worldy guilt, which takes us further from God, and godly sorrow, which leads us closer to God.