What are you giving up for Lent? As a Southern Baptist girl from small-town Alabama, I’d never been asked that question until we moved to New Orleans. Other than what I’d learned as a religion major at Samford University I knew very little about Lent but I was interested in learning from those who practiced it. During the yearly observance, I witnessed the extremes of the tradition. Some tried to give up a vice as a form of penance—no alcohol for 40 days; and, others merely saw it as a challenge—can I go without chocolate for that long? Since I don’t believe in penance and a challenge alone couldn’t prepare me spiritually for Easter, I wondered how I could observe Lent in a truly meaningful way.
Give It Up For Good
Fasting for a period of time can be useful. I’m not discounting the spiritual, physical, and emotional benefits of giving up certain things for a specific period of time. Many of us spend too much time on social media, watch too much T.V., and eat too much junk food and a 40 day period of abstaining from such can help us focus on our relationship with God and the sacrifice of Christ. But if we are serious about spiritual growth and drawing closer to God then perhaps there are a few things we need to give up for good.
God’s Word is filled with commands for His people to follow and many of those commands tell us what not to do. Earlier this week while reading Numbers 11 I was convicted of my own lack of obedience to one of His commands.
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Numbers 11:1
I’ve become a complainer. I wish it weren’t true but it is and I’m glad God loves me enough to show me when I’m living in a way that hurts Him, my witness, and those I love.
In case you’re wondering here’s a definition:
- to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.
- to state that one is suffering from a pain or other form of illness
- state a grievance
According to the definition, here are a few of the things I complain about: (some more than others)
*husband*children*church*government*leadership*traffic*customer service*work*arthritis*weight gain*lack of money*busyness*feeling tired*feeling taken for granted*taxes*the neighbor’s dog*rude people*the weather*slow internet*the cable company*people who complain
Dear reader, unless you are vastly different than most everyone I know, you’re a complainer, too. Your list may be completely different than mine and it may be much shorter. We can call it “just stating the facts” or “telling it like it is” or “venting” or “girl talk” or “office chatter” if we want to. We can say it’s no big deal and everybody needs to whine occasionally if we want to but that’s not in line with the Word of God on the issue.
How does God feel about complaining?
In a word, angry.
Just read the story in Numbers 11 and see if you can’t see yourself there. I saw myself over and again throughout the chapter.
Complaining leads us down the road of “if only”and implies that where we are, what we have, and what we’re going through is somehow out of God’s sight and beyond His hand. Complaining implies that the grass is greener over there or back there. The dissatisfaction that leads to complaining comes when our attention shifts from what we have to what we don’t have, or from what we have to what we wish we didn’t have.
We were better off in Egypt. Numbers 11:18
Complaining is telling whoever will listen: “God has given me a raw deal.”
Is It Ever OK To Complain?
I’m not suggesting that we never express a concern or report a problem. But how and when and to whom we speak makes a difference to God and impacts our witness as believers.
The Israelites did a lot of complaining in chapter 11 but we can’t miss the fact that Moses did some complaining, too. So what’s the difference?
Let’s compare the two and we’ll see.
Verse one reads, “The people complained . . . and the Lord heard it.”
Verses 10-11 read, “Moses was also very aggravated and said to the Lord . . .”
The people complained to one another and to Moses.
Moses complained to God.
The Right Way to Complain
- Tell God. Moses and many others in the Bible set the example for us. God is the one who knows what’s best and can change our circumstances. If there’s something we need to do He will guide us.
- Talk to a counselor, mentor, or pastor. Sometimes we need to share the burden and seek support and guidance. The scripture provides examples of this, too.
- Talk to the authority. If you’re having an issue at work or at a business or in your community find out who’s in charge and speak to them about the matter. State the facts, kindly and give them the opportunity to respond. If you’re having a health issue, seek help from a medical professional.
And once you tell God, or talk to a confidante or authority let it go. Let. It. Go.
I’m giving up complaining for good. If you see me during the next 40 days I may be quieter than usual as I develop the habit, with the Lord’s help, to “always be joyful, never stop praying, and be thankful in all circumstances. . .
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18