Conquering Complaining

In the summer and fall of 2015, most of Mississippi and especially central Mississippi have gone through one of the most severe droughts in any of our lifetimes. As usual the heat has been dreadful but in normal years we would have had thunderstorms that would have built up and given us a good cooling shower. Not in 2015. It stayed hot and dry, and it got hotter and drier as the days passed by. Then toward the latter part of October, it rained. It didn’t just sprinkle. It rained — good, soaking rain.

On the first day of the rain, I went out on my morning walk before sunrise but in the rain. A neighbor ran out to get his newspaper and said to me, “You picked a fine day to go out and walk.” I said, “Man, I’m enjoying it. The rain is wonderful.” As I headed out to face the day I drove to work in the rain, walked across the parking lot in the rain, went inside, and watched it rain. The thought crossed my mind and I wondered how long it would be before someone — I didn’t have anybody in mind, but someone — somewhere would be heard complaining about the rain.

Well, the answer to my question was only a few hours away. It came just before noon. It was still raining. As I was on the way to a meeting away from my office, I stopped to get some gas. When I walked into the convenience store, the person in the store said, “Man, I’m sick and tired of this rain. Aren’t you?” I said, “Well, not yet. We’ve been needing rain for six months and I’m kind of glad it’s here.” He did not agree with my assessment or opinion, but it kept on raining most of the day into the night into the following day – good, soaking rain. The kind of rain that would reach deep into the ground and not be just evaporated as the sun popped back out. The kind of rain that would help fill the Reservoir back up and the kind of rain that would wash away oil from the road. The kind of rain that prevents us from living in a desert.

While I remembered the guy who was not happy about the rain just hours after it began, I began to hear one after another say, “I’ll be glad when the rain quits,” or “Enough is enough.” It kept on raining. In fact it rained so much that by the time October ended, it was the fourteenth wettest October in our state’s history and the complaints got louder and louder. It’s amazing how quickly we begin complaining about the good things that God does for us.

I’m reminded of God’s people in Egypt who had been burdened and enslaved for generation after generation, all the while calling out to God to deliver them, pleading with heaven to send help, a deliverer for them, and then God did. He raised up His leader Moses, preparing him from birth for the great task that was going to be before him. He called him and gifted him and led him to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses comes and faces Pharaoh. He knew though the unfolding process of God as the ten plagues had to take place before Pharaoh would say, “Let the people go.”

Sure enough, God took care of His people, guided them, and delivered them, but they were hardly out of sight of their Egyptian slave masters when the complaining began. They complained about Moses, who obviously took the wrong direction, and there they were facing the Red Sea or the Egyptian army. Clearly, Moses was no great leader and they were going to die right there on the edge of Egypt. What they did not know was that not only did Moses know what he was doing, God knew what He was doing. He called for the people to stand still and watch. He opened the Rea Sea, destroyed the army of Egypt, and led them on toward the Promised Land. As they crossed the desert floor, soon it became clear that they had ample reason to complain again. They’re going to starve out there on the desert.

God had not left His people alone and He still knew what He was doing and what He could do for them. He instructs Moses to get up the next morning and look around and there they were going to find manna. Manna from heaven just there at their tent’s door. Not only was it there that day, but the next and the next. For forty years, He kept giving them manna, but how soon we begin to complain about the good things that God does for us. One of the incredible complaints that came was that they were sick of manna and they wanted meat, so of all things God gave them quail meat — delicious, wonderful quail meat. He blessed them with the goodness of the quail cuisine to the point that they were stuffed and sick of quail. You can imagine that the complaints began to rise again.

Thanksgiving is before us and I would like to encourage you to do two things. One, think of the good things in your life about which you are complaining. Maybe it’s your job. Maybe you think you have reason to complain about your job. Just stop long enough to think about people who either do not have a job or physically are unable to work. Maybe you’ve been complaining about your companion or your children, the good things that God has put in your life. Oh, I know all of us can drive each other crazy at times, but what a good thing God has done for most of us and the privilege He has given us to be blessed by our family members. Just think about the good things about which you have gotten in the habit of complaining.

The other thing I would encourage you to do is this – focus on the goodness of God and thank Him for all of the blessings that He has poured out into your life and for all of the difficulties from which He has protected you. Turn your complaints into cries of joy and celebrations of blessings. This Thanksgiving, regardless of what’s going on in your life, could well be your best.

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Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer