I have a cute little country plaque on my kitchen wall that always makes me smile.
Sometimes I wake up Grouchy.
Other times I let him sleep.
Kenny doesn’t find it quite as amusing as I do.
To be honest, for most of our nearly 49 years of marriage, Kenny was long gone before I even stirred in the morning. I didn’t have to wake him up ever; I have no idea what he was like when he hurried off to work each morning before the sun was even thinking of dawn.
I just thought the tiny sign was funny and I bought it.
Probably, it resonated more with me about me than about him. Not a morning person by nature, I have to work at finding things NOT to be grumpy about when I roll out of bed.
My body, stiff and inflexible after hours of inactivity, stubbornly refuses to cooperate. My swollen fingers can’t twist the toothpaste cap. I can’t see to find my glasses so I can see to find my glasses. I glare at the saggy old lady in my mirror, the one with scraggly witch-hair sticking out all over her head. How many times did I get up last night? Acid reflux again? Nothing fits! I’m too old to still be working. There’s no milk for my cereal. Why is it raining? I hate all this pollen. All my joints are aching…
Complain, complain, and complain! So who’s really the grouchy one?
It’s so easy to get into the habit of moaning and groaning. It’s easy to find fault and be discontented, to be annoyed and impatient when things aren’t what I want or expect. It’s easy to be a serial complainer. Can you relate?
And maybe, like me, you consider these little grumbles as harmless, a meaningless bantering between “me, myself, and I.” A venting. A purging. But is that true? Or could these whiny words be a warning that something sinister and ugly is going on in my heart?
Jesus says that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). What’s already inside there is what’s going to come out.
So what is happening in my heart? Why is it so easy to grumble?
Paul Tripp answered my questions in New Morning Mercies today.
“Well, (it’s) easy (to complain) because sin still causes us to make it all about us. Because sin really is selfishness at its core, we all still tend to shrink our worlds down to the small confines of our wants, our needs, and our feelings. We then tend to judge the good of our lives by how much of what we want we are able to actually have. At street level, it is tempting to live a God-forgetful, me-istic existence. If you put yourself in the center of your world, you will find plenty of things to complain about.
“It is also true that you live in a fallen world where people and things are not functioning the way God intended. This world really is terribly broken. Life here really is hard. You face all kinds of difficulties, big and small. People disappoint you…obstacles appear in your way. In some way, the fallenness of your world enters your door every day. Combine the hardships of life in this fallen world with the self-centeredness of sin and you have a recipe for disaster, or at least a miserable life of discontent.
“The Bible does not see grumbling and complaining as little things. In Deuteronomy 1, Moses recounts how the people of Israel ‘murmured’ about their lives, and embedded in that murmuring were questions about the goodness and wisdom of God. God’s assessment was that by their grumbling the people had rebelled against him; they had shown they were unwilling to do what he had called and enabled them to do. The joy or complaint of your heart always shapes your willingness to trust God and to do his will.
“Complaining forgets God’s grace. It ignores his presence. It fails to see the beauty of his promises. It allows the display of his splendor in creation to go unnoticed. It questions his goodness, faithfulness and love. It wonders if he is there and if he cares. If you believe in God and his control over everything that exists, then you have to accept that all of your grumbling is ultimately grumbling against him. Yes, it is so easy to complain. It is so easy to forget the daily blessings that fall down on each of us. Our readiness to complain is another argument for the forgiving and rescuing grace that Jesus, without complaint, willingly died to give us.”
I hate to think of my silly yet cantankerous grumbling as a sign that my heart, at best, is forgetful and ungrateful and, at worst, rebellious against GOD! Even when my complaints are most often uttered in my own bedroom, I know my Father can hear. I know they are pointing to a condition in my heart that needs attention. I must sound like a selfish brat. I’m sure my prayers are often like that as well. And how awful when I spread my discontent to my children or grandchildren…or others! Oh, Father forgive me! I don’t want to be an ungrateful Israelite—full of spiritual amnesia, forgetting Your daily deliverance and provision.
Yes, life isn’t a bowl of cherries. Sometimes we do have legitimate gripes and there are biblical ways to deal with those. But I think my murmuring often has much more to do with my personal preferences being ignored or my personal expectations of someone or something not being satisfied to please me. Sometimes I am just having a bad day and I see every situation from a glass-half-full perspective. Other times, I’m afraid it has become a nasty habit. Once in a while, with a group of negative people around, I find I am too easily influenced and can readily join in their grumping.
I, I, I. My, my, my. Me, me, me. Complain, complain, complain. How thankless! How God-forgetful! And that’s my heart….
The same may be true of you. “A heart of gratitude and thankfulness isn’t dependent on your bank statement, doctor’s diagnosis, or the praise you receive for a job well done. Thanklessness and grumbling—regardless of your situation, even your suffering—reflect your heart. They are sin. Spiritual amnesia is a deadly disease that threatens your faith and your joy more than any cancer. It penetrates to the core and rots your heart from within.” (Steven Lee)
So what can I do? What can we do? How can we root out the evil spiritual amnesia that threatens our faith and our joy and is revealed in our outward murmuring?
The antidote is to simply remember God’s gracious redemption, provision, and deliverance. Every day. Read about it, study it, write it, reflect on it, verbalize it, teach it, memorize it. Live it!
“Take a moment and look back on God’s fingerprints all over your life:
*Remember how God has protected you from making shipwreck of your life.
*Remember how God graciously let you grow up in a godly family.
*Remember how God awakened you to the ugliness of your sin.
*Remember how you walked away from that terrible car crash.
*Remember how your wife, sister or mom survived breast cancer.
*Remember how you had mentors and key friends guide you in your faith.
*Remember how God sustained you during that season of unemployment.
*Remember how God miraculously healed you.
*Remember that impossible prayer request that God answered.
*Remember how you had no money and an envelope just showed up in the mail with exactly what you needed.
*Remember how the Gospel came alive as it never had before.
The antidote to spiritual amnesia is making every effort to recall and remember God’s gracious deliverance. The fact that you—a sinner who was an enemy of God—are now a beloved child is a miracle. Don’t let that wonder every fade. Remember.
Let this act of remembering awaken in you joy in God and a deep sense of gratitude that God loves you, knows you, and keeps you.” (Steven Lee)
Then you will be so busy rehearsing your blessings, you won’t have any time to list your frivolous and me-istic complaints. I won’t either.
After all, nobody wants that corny little plaque in my kitchen to be true of them, right?