The Dance of Complaint
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The Dance of Complaint

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Words by Autumn Kern
Image by Ethan Jago

Whenever a friend asked about my last pregnancy, I rarely knew how to respond. My answer was a dance of sorts; Id complain about my nausea or the physical pain of my separating pelvis and then twirl without pause to comment on a good gift to lessen the weight of my complaint. Well, Istill best friends with the toilet, but my baby is healthy, so Im not complaining. It was almost rhythmic: complaint, but theres this, so no complaint. Step. Twirl. Step. 

Complaining is an issue of the heart, not necessarily the words spoken about ones situation. We can share something difficult, and we can lament; we can also whine, grumble, and complain. There were times when I honestly answered about the difficulties in my pregnancy, and it was just sharing with a friend. But there were other times when I tried to hide my temper tantrum about my situation by giving a nod to something good.

Christians know were not supposed to complain about what we dont have. But is it any better not to complain just because of what we do have?

The choice not to complain has nothing to do with our circumstancesboth what we have and what we dontbut everything to do with the One telling us not to complain (Phil 2:14–15). We miss the point by pairing our complaints with the good things we can see. This isnt the way to a humble, grateful heart. But knowing the God of Scripture is. 

God is Infinite 

God is infinite: hes without beginning or end, hes unrestrained by geography or location; and all that he is, he is in endless measurein wisdom, mercy, kindness, faithfulness, love, and grace. His power and rule is unquestionable and perfectly executed.* Hes the standard of all goodness, the epitome of all goodness, the storehouse of all goodness; and his goodness is directed in all things towards those who love him. 

When we complain, we complain directly against God. We may mutter about dishes left in the sink again, the traffic making us late for work, or the neighbors loud music waking the baby, but our words betray our hearts: God isnt good to me through this. We may quickly add were grateful to have dishes, a job, or a baby, but our words reveal a misstep: God isnt good to me through this, but I guess he was good to me in that, so Ill keep quiet on this one. 

God is good to us through all thingsnot because of the circumstances, but because of who he is. We may struggle to understand how glory comes from trials and suffering, but God says he can and will make it happen (Rom. 8:28–29; James 1:2–4). Because he is infinite, heable to do what he promises, and he will do what he promises (Ps. 115:3). 

God is Sovereign 

God is sovereign over all thingsour normal days, salvation, seemingly random moments, the weather, powerful leaders, evil things, relationships, life and death.** Hes the rightful ruler of his creation, but its more than just his ability to rule (which he can do); its that he should rule (Gen. 1:1). Because his position is his based on right and ability, its to our great delight that he sovereignly cares for his creation and people. 

Even more, hes not a far-off ruler, unaware of the particulars of our situations or unconcerned about us individually. He intimately cares about his people, including ones chronic illness, toddlers tantrums, and lost keys. He understands our weakness and promises his grace is sufficient for all things (2 Cor. 12:9). Before he laid the foundations of the earth, he lovingly planned to work all things for the good of those who love him by bringing about a glorious, perfect ending in which he will live with his people.*** If every part of our lives is used to that endeven when we cant imagine how it could be donethen every part of our lives is under the control of God to his glory and for our good.

God is Faithful 

God is faithful to his people and his plans (2 Tim. 2:13). With his infinite wisdom, he rules creation as he intends, moving all thingsincluding ustowards his new heaven and new earth. His plans cant be destroyed, redirected, or changed by outside forces or difficult circumstances (Job 42:2). He sees everything and is surprised by nothing (Job 28:24).

But were surprised by things. Were blindsided when we lose our jobs, struggle to connect in relationships, or suffer during pregnancy. If we were sovereign over our lives, wed probably never allow anything from an inconvenience to a hardship to happen to us. But Gods plan is to do a new thing; hes making us holy like he is holy, removing sin fully from our hearts so we can one day live with him in glory (2 Cor. 5:17). His faithfulness is steadfast to the work he began in us and in creation (Phil. 1:6). The things we complain about are the very tools used by God to complete the work in us. He cant be unfaithful to himself, so he cant be unfaithful to us. 

No Cause for Complaint 

Complaining in any formeven in light of what we do havemakes us familiar to the broken world; bitterness, entitlement, and selfishness find a sympathetic ear with those who dont know God. But imagine the stark difference of someone who doesnt complain. Why dont they complain? Dont they want parts of their lives to be different? How can they be content in this world? How can they be sure of the future? 

And pairing a complaint to a good thing is still, at its root, complaining.  

When we better know God in his ways, our complaints fall away. Well shine as lights in a world of darkness; well look different to those we meet (Prov. 3:3–5, Phil 2:14–15)Were a rescued people in a story with a known ending (John 1:12–13). We have no care too big or problem too overwhelming for who he is (1 Pet. 5:7). And when we forget (which we will), we can look to Jesus to see Gods infinite, sovereign, and faithful care for us. If he gave us his Son to make us his own, will he not continue to care for us perfectly (Rom. 8). 

Even though well struggle not to complain, we can cling to the grace which transforms our complaining to gratitude in increasing measure. 

Grace quiets complaints. It once shone light into our dark hearts and transformed us into new people. It made us lovely in the midst of a crooked generation, and it made a way for us to know God in increasing measure. And its the same grace thats changing us from dancing complainers to steadfast worshippers. 

This post originally appeared on Carbon Ribs. 

*Gen. 21:33; Ps. 113:4–6; Ps. 145:3; Is. 40:15; Rom. 11:33; Eph. 1:23; Rev. 1:8

**Deut. 32:39; Prov. 16:33; Prov. 19:21; Is. 45:70; Rom. 8:29–30; Eph. 1:11; James 4:13–15

***Rom. 8:28–29; Eph.1:3–4; Rev. 21:3–5