“Can’t complain,” she said to me.
“Yes you can,” I answered back.
But she didn’t. Complain, that is.
While watching HGTV, I heard a homeowner say it and I answered the television with, “Yes you can.”
In the marketplace the other day, a guy I know said to me, “Can’t complain.” By now, you can probably guess what I said back to him.
The next day, someone else said the same thing to me in a text message. “Can’t complain.”
I texted back my standard answer to that two-word declaration, “Yes you can.”
“Complaining doesn’t help,” the text-er answered back.
In case you missed it, I beg to differ.
I get it, though. For those of us with a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and shoes on our feet, it’s hard to justify any reason for complaint. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that a certain state of affairs or some event has irritated us. Really, it’s okay.
Sometimes, complaining helps to get the frustration or disappointment or despair out of our heads. When that happens, we’re in a much better place to make good decisions and see things more clearly. Not complaining often serves the same function as stuffing our emotions. Eventually, the pressure valve pops off, releasing a storm of unfiltered havoc, all over some poor, unsuspecting bystander.
On the other end of the spectrum, of course, is getting stuck in a cycle of complaint. People who seem to do nothing but complain lose credibility, and wear others out with their persistent grumbling. There is a fine line when it comes to complaints. Similarly, our timing and audience matter. But that doesn’t mean there is never a time or a place for complaining. Just check the Psalms, in case you’re not so sure. David was a master complainer and we can follow his example. Check out Psalm 13:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
There is a beautiful transition that seems to take place, right there at the beginning of verse five, where David shifts from expressing his irritation with God’s inaction on his behalf. In verse five, David’s focus is entirely on God and his complaints have fallen away. On the page, the transition takes place in the space right after verse four. But, in reality, the transition takes place in David’s heart.
God is not measuring our frustrations, disappointments, or despair against those of others. God cares about each of us, exactly the same. When we diminish our own frustrations, we are holding back from God. We know the enemy delights in keeping any kind of distance between us and God, so why give him wiggle room when it comes to the things that get on our nerves? Offering our complaints to God is one of the best things we can do. When we go to God with our complaints, he is more than able to transform our perspective and redeem the situation, beyond our wildest imagination.
I have eaten up all God’s air time the last few years, being honest, because sometimes there are justifiable “ouches” in life and if you don’t go somewhere with them, it’ll back on you. There is a myth that Christians are not allowed to say “ouch,” “I am in pain,” “Something isn’t right in this situation,” etc. It keeps a lot of us in little prisons of our own making. God invites us into conversation, no restrictions. He can handle it. I think we keep striving to have the right perspective when we need to surrender, speak our complaint boldly, then watch to see what He does. He may change a situation. He may shed light that changes how we see it. He may turn it back on us, to point out something He’s trying to work on. A lot of the time, He shows His hand active in the situation and that is enough for me. As long as I know He is there, I can keep going.
Okay, you may have hit upon a hot-button topic for me with this one, Deidra. All good!
It is an absolute myth, Marilyn. Thank you for every single word you’ve shared, here. I needed to hear what you’ve shared.
You’re so right. Since my “spirit animal” is Eeyore, I have to be careful about complaining, but I also have to be careful about minimizing my feelings. I just read Broken Hallelujahs by Beth Slevcove, and am still carrying around the thought that our culture encourages us to act “as if each of us is only allotted a small amount of grief and we had better put it to good use on something really important.”
Oh my gosh! Your “spirit animal”! That made me smile.
The quote you’ve shared from Broken Hallelujahs is very powerful. I’ll have to check out that book!
I appreciate this honest and helpful post. It recognizes that Christians are real people with real reasons to complain. It affirms that God can handle it when we struggle and question and don’t get it quite right. And thanks for letting me complain just a bit with you earlier this week! You are a treasure!
Absolutely! And thank YOU. Honestly, I didn’t think for one second that you were complaining. So, maybe we’re too hard on ourselves when it come to the concept of complaining. Maybe what we feel might come off as complaining is actually just giving someone access to our lives at more than surface level.