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Complaining Only Makes Things Worse

By Dale A. Robbins

We may know it by different terms -- such as griping, grumbling, whining, or belly-aching. In the King James version of the Bible, the common term used was “murmuring.” But regardless of the word we use to describe it, complaining always has the has the same syptoms. The dictionary defines it as “an expression of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or discontent.” Complaining is the outward expression of discontent from within.

As we look back into the Old Testament and see how God dealt with the Children of Israel, we discover that the Lord always considered their complaints as an act of unbelief directed toward Him. When they complained about their circumstances, their type of food, and even at Moses, God was displeased because they weren’t thankful for what He had provided them. He was disappointed that they refused to trust in Him to provide, protect, and direct the order of their lives. “Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).

Complaining Expresses Unbelief and Gives "Place" to the Devil

Regardless of whatever circumstances may cause discontent or dissatisfaction, complaining is always an expression of unbelief toward God’s order in our life. You see, the whole premise of Christianity is that Jesus becomes the Lord (in charge) of our life and our circumstances. They are in his hands. Thus, if believers complain, it really becomes an accusation against our Lord, in whom we’ve trusted our lives. “...for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD” (Ex. 16:8). (See also Psm. 106:24-26)

Complaining is unbelief in God’s Word which says “...all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). If the Christian really believes that the Lord is in control of their life, and is working “ALL THINGS together for our good,” they will stop complaining and start thanking the Lord for the plan He is working together for their life.

Furthermore, complaining is an atmosphere in which the Devil thrives, as it essentially honors him for dissatisfaction and discontent he has inspired. The Apostle Paul warned that complaining can actually give opportunity to the Devil to work in lives, as it opens the door to "the destroyer," as it did in the lives of the murmuring Israelites, who were destroyed in the wilderness. He said, “Don't complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10).

We may recall how that after God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt's bondage by miraculous means, they kept grumbling that they were going to die in the wilderness (Num. 14:2-3). So the Lord finally got fed up with their whining and unbelief, and actually allowed their complaints to come upon them. He said, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, As I live, says the LORD, just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above” (Num. 14:27-29). The Lord allowed the Destroyer to bring the very destruction that they confessed and predicted.

I use to think people complained because they had a lot of problems... but I have come to realize that many have problems because they complain. An attitude of grumbling, griping, murmuring, squawking doesn’t change anything or make situations better. It only amplifies frustration, expresses unbelief, spreads discontent among others (Prov 6:16-19)... and can also invoke an invitation for the destroyer to wreak further havoc and chaos with their lives.

Express Thanksgiving Instead of Complaining

How important it is, therefore, that believers keep a check over their attitude, including the words of their mouth. The scriptures tell us that our words are literally the basis for whether we are justified or condemned. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). Realizing this, we should eradicate griping, and instead, fill our mouth with praise and thanksgiving.

If anyone ever had room to complain about his circumstances, it would be Paul... who suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, and wrote much of his beloved epistles from a prison cell. He said, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness...” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). But Paul did not surrender to a bitter or complaining attitude, but kept his focus on the praise-worthy things (Phil. 4:11), to remain content and at peace despite his circumstances. “...for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

Obviously, problems and difficulties don't disappear when a person becomes a follower of Jesus... and in fact, may intensify as the Devil brings greater attention against our faith with trials and temptations. But if we will keep a good attitude and remain steadfast in faith, God will even turn these situations around and “work them together for good”. Don’t become bitter and resort to complaining again, but continue to praise God and give thanks to God “in spite” of all things. This will prevent the Devil from exploiting you with discouragement and will send him fleeing. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

Complaining is common-place in the lives of unbelievers, who have no trust or confidence in God. In fact, the epistle of Jude places complainers into the same category as ungodly sinners who will inherit judgment, “...grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts...” (Jude 1:15-16). But Christians should be people of faith, filled with of an attitude gratefulness and thanksgiving toward the God in whom they've entrusted their lives.

Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude and faith in God, and is the very opposite of complaining. Giving of thanks expresses appreciation for what the Lord has done, for what He has promised, and expresses confidence that He is directing our life with His order and provision. God will answer prayers and work in the behalf of the thankful. “Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalms 50:14-15).

Considering what we've shared, let's avoid a negative lifestyle of complaining, and follow the attitude that Paul described as the will of God. He said, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)


This article (VL-105) is copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2023 and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. In some references to real persons, pseudonyms may have been used to preserve their privacy. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.