During the recent church-wide fast, I decided to give up complaining for the month of January. We are commanded to “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Knowing full well that I do not follow that, I wanted to try to put a stop to it.
First I had to determine what “complaining” meant – not to be legalistic, but because I wanted to make sure I could still engage in every day conversations! For example, if it’s two degrees out and someone asks how the weather is, I can honestly say “It’s cold” in a neutral tone and not be complaining. If my response is a whiny “Oh, it’s so cold out! I hate this weather! I can’t wait for the summer!”, that would be considered a complaint.
I found abstaining from complaining harder than expected (note: this is not a complaint) and had to watch each word that came out of my mouth. This made me realize that I likely complain far too much.
A few days before the end of the fast, I hurt my back and could hardly move. When I did, it was accompanied by involuntary groans of pain. I would love to say that the few weeks of not complaining made it easy for me not to complain after my back started hurting, but that was not the case.
During this time I reflected on the apostle Paul. He had some sort of condition (which Bible scholars cannot agree upon) and asked God three times to remove the condition. God did not do so. Since Paul wrote a good portion of the New Testament, it’s striking that we don’t even know what his condition was! This leads me to believe that Paul found it much more important to tell others about Jesus than to complain.
Although the fast is over (and, thankfully, my back is much better!), I am now much more cognizant of how much I complain, and am asking the Holy Spirit to continue to cleanse my heart so that there is no complaining on the outside — or the inside. May we all abstain from complaining and, like Paul, point people to the One who has provided us with everything we need to live a joyful life, no matter our circumstances.