Complaining is a common human failing.
Some people believe they have a “right” to complain. Conditions and situations are so bad that they have earned the right to complain to whomever they choose. This attitude has become pervasive in the church to the point that the unchurched simply do not see any difference between us and them.
So let me speak directly to this issue. Here’s my challenge: Name one major Bible character who did not complain. Abraham? No. Moses? Definitely not. David? I don’t think so. Well then, how about some of the prophets – Samuel? Uh, no. Isaiah? No, again. Okay then, let’s look at the Disciples. Ummm, then again, let’s not.
Do you see a pattern here? Over and over again throughout the Bible we see people complaining about all sorts of things which strikes at the root of faith, calling into question God’s effective handling of our personal affairs, and to the point where we wonder whether he even cares about us on an individual basis.
Actually, I can think of only two natural born people where no complaint is ever recorded as coming from their mouths. That would be Joseph whose life is written in significant detail in Genesis 37-50. The other would be Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her story is provided mostly by the Apostle Luke in chapters 1 & 2.
What was it that stood out in Joseph’s life? He was a man who was the favored son of Jacob; was treacherously sold into slavery by his brothers; falsely accused of molesting an Egyptian official’s wife; and ended up in an Egyptian prison. At that point, being that he was a Jewish man in an Egyptian prison, he was likely to never be seen or heard from again. Look all you want – I challenge you to find one utterance of complaint from Joseph.
It’s not surprising then that we see this singular phrase repeated throughout Joseph’s story: “The Lord was with Joseph.” Ah! There it is! Joseph had learned to hold his tongue and not complain, even though most of us would have felt more than justified in doing so. No other character in the Scriptures ever had this phrase attributed to them.
As it turned out, Joseph was used by God in a very critical manner. Because of his exemplary character, and his work ethic, God caused him to find favor with Egypt’s pharaoh. Because of this, the Jewish people were saved from the likelihood of starvation. On top of that, Joseph even extended the hand of forgiveness to his brothers for having sold him into slavery.
Your personal situation may not end quite so dramatically as did Joseph’s, but any time you choose to honor God, particularly through your attitude, God will in turn bless you.
Let me offer this thought for your consideration, especially during this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas: Does a complaining attitude benefit anyone? Does it honor God? You already know the answer. Actually, the very opposite is true. Complaining is evidence of a lack of faith. In reality, faith declares that God is in control of our lives, especially when we’re in the depths of an Egyptian prison!
I believe Paul had Joseph in mind when he admonishes us in Philippians 4:4-8. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Joseph would say “Amen” to that, don’t you think?