Jeremy has a strong desire to please Judy, his young wife. From time to time Judy lets Jeremy know there is something he can do for her which would make her happy. Or, more often than not, she let’s him know what is making her unhappy, and he then feels an obligation to fix it for her. Jeremy believes his job as husband is to make his wife happy, and when she’s upset he feels failure.
When Judy complained about her kitchen (“it looks drab…this refrigerator is such a beast…don’t you wish we had more updated cabinets?”), Jeremy drew up a plan to fix it for her. He went out on a financial limb to purchase a sweet new refrigerator on a new Lowe’s credit card. He bought the materials to reface the cabinets with sanding, painting, and new hardware. For over a month now he’s been working nights and weekends to make her kitchen something she can be proud of.
This evening Judy comes home, a downcast expression on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Jeremy inquires. Clearly his wife is not happy; what can he do for her?
“I don’t know,” she replies. “I was just over at our neighbor’s house, and you should have seen her kitchen! Why can we never afford anything like that? They have this refrigerator that looks like it came out of a science fiction movie, stone countertops, dutch oven, shiny chrome everywhere. Everything is so…big and perfect. I just wish sometimes we could have something that nice.”
Jeremy stands before her, his hands still raw from hours of sanding cabinets. Something inside him deflates; a light dims in his eyes; a fire smolders. In silence he thinks of the toil, sweat, blood, and money he has been pouring into this kitchen. For Judy. Perhaps he has been naive, thinking his hard work could make her happy. Five minutes ago he was anticipating Judy’s delight and praise at the progress he’s been making. Now he doesn’t feel like even looking at his handiwork, let alone continuing his labor. He feels failure because he doesn’t make enough money to give Judy what she wants.
As I think about Jeremy and Judy, I wonder how God hears our complaining. We sometimes sulk, “Lord, Bob has such a great life, a new car every couple of years, a gorgeous house. How come You haven’t blessed me like him?” We even compare our husbands, wives, kids, and parents to other families!
What does complaining do? It destroys! It crushes spirits. It spreads discontent and reveals a complete lack of appreciation for what God has given. Never does complaining accomplish anything positive. This is, I expect, why God inspired Paul to write the following:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2.14-15)
Israel complained about their lack of water, their lack of food, their lack of nice food as they followed God’s leading in the wilderness. God eventually killed many of them because of their complaining (1 Cor. 10.6-11). In essence, they were telling God, “We don’t like the way you provide for us. We don’t appreciate Your leadership.”
There is power in complaining–power to destroy. What has God given you? Is it not enough? Do you deserve any of it, anyway? Why should we expect God to give us exactly the same things as another has? “It’s not fair!” we challenge. Does that not call God’s integrity into question? In fact, He has been more than fair with every one of us. Relish what you have, and don’t sweat what you don’t. If you don’t have it, you don’t need it. What you need is Jesus Christ beside you–and that is all.