“I DON’T LIKE IT!” It’s a phrase we’ve all heard at one time or another. Most often it’s coming from a slightly disgruntled congregation member or that person who feels it’s their unique calling to challenge everything you say or do. But if I can be really honest with you for a few minutes, sometimes it’s us!
We’ve all had those times when at the end of long and trying week our thoughts, our conversations, and our entire attitude is one big complaint!
I don’t like my job; I don’t like my commute; I don’t like my board; I don’t like anything!!! Ministry has its challenges, and at times the stress of it can stream from our mouths, and it’s not always positive.
Matthew 12:34 tells us that ”out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” This verse is a constant reminder that our attitude and words have power and can have a powerful impact on us and those around us.
The truth is, complaining is bad for our attitude and the attitude of our friends and colleagues around us. It can become a contagious environment changing a habit.
Author Travis Bradberry, PhD, in his book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” explains how “repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time you find it easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behaviour.”
This shouldn’t be shocking to us as we can see through biblical history this has happened to God's people in momentous ways. In Exodus, the Israelites complained while under the duress and captivity of Pharaoh. Then, within a few short chapters, you would think the greatest escape in history would be marked by celebration, rejoicing and joy for generations, but it’s not. Exodus 14:11 shows God's people grumbling complaining and whining, seemingly forgetting the miracles God had just done for them. Complaints in captivity, complaints in freedom.
You and I both know God wants more from us, regardless of our challenges, obstacles, and frustrations. So, let me give you a little encouragement on how to break through those “weak moments of complaint”.
Sometimes you can’t get away from overwhelmingly difficult situations. But you can change how you think about them and what you say about them. Philippians 2:14,15 encourages us to “do everything without grumbling, arguing. So that you may become blameless and pure...children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” There is a challenge here to step out of the complaining routine and become Godly examples of hope to families, friends and communities. So how do we do this?
If you can change the situation, do something about it.
Instead of letting complaints of inadequacies and a lack of resources and vision fill the air, jump in and make a change. If you see something wrong, fix it! When you can help make something better, do it! The opportunity to be creative and solve a problem not only inspires but teaches that involvement and cooperation can lead to moving your ministry and the church forward.
If you can’t change the situation, change your perspective.
Paul is the greatest example of this in the new testament. Here he is with a “bucket list” desire to preach the good news to Romans in Rome. But things don’t always go as planned. He definitely ends up in Rome but not nearly the way he imagined it would be: he was a prisoner, in a cell and chained to a Roman centurion 24 hours a day. Does Paul complain? Never!
Instead, he changes his perspective and implies (somewhat light-heartedly) in Philippians 1:12 that God has given him just what he wanted: a captive audience of Romans hearing the good news all day long.
Let me encourage you to lead with excellence and find ways to use your circumstances to build up, to encourage, to cast vision and let everyone know that simply complaining about something won’t make it better. Use the opportunity to show people that in spite of what you’re “chained to”, God can still fulfill His purpose.