Combatting a Complaining Spirit

The work never ends.

These kids are soooo lazy.

My students’ parents are completely unreasonable.

My administrator doesn’t understand.

These expectations are ridiculous!

Sometimes the complaints tumble from my lips while at other times they tumble round and round in my heart and mind throughout the day.

They swirl around and around until my joy has been completely sapped. I look around at my circumstances in despair and frustration. A resentment begins to build against people and circumstances that seem to be disrupting what I believe my life ought to be. And before I know it, that resentment has grown to include God – because, after all, isn’t He the One who is allowing these things?

And Satan leans back, rubbing his hands in glee as I lead myself down a path that leads to bitterness and unfruitfulness for Christ.

You see, those complaints were the beginning shoots of a weed that would grow stronger and stronger as I dwelt on them, ultimately stretching out their stems and leaves to try and choke out the life in my relationship with God and others.

And just as it’s not enough to take a pair of garden shears and lop off  the weed that we can see on the surface, it’s not enough to just “try harder” to not complain.

We must get to the root of the problem to eradicate it.

So how can we root out complaining

Realize what is at the heart of ingratitude

I did a lot of reading in college and barely remember most of what was in my freshman textbooks. However, I will always remember a quote from my Old Testament Survey book by Paul Benware. He said that “complaining is an attack on the love and character of God.”  Ouch. So often I categorize complaining as a “little” sin (if that!). I like to sugarcoat it with terms like “venting” or “sharing my concerns”.

Yet each complaining word that leaves my mouth is a slap in the face of my Father.

I was once a sinner who deserved immense punishment for my rebellion against the One who had created me. I deserved to be separated from Him forever.

He chose to adopt me into His family and gave His own perfect Son to take the punishment in my place.

I am a chosen member of the  King’s family, and He has given me so many promises. That He will be faithful. That He will love me unconditionally. That He will provide for me. That He is good and sovereignly  directing my life for His glory and my good. All of these promises and blessings are because of grace – I deserve Hell, but I got a Heavenly Father and a Son’s inheritance.

And not only has He given me the hope of an eternal home and a relationship with Him, but he has given me so many temporal blessings. The beauty of a sunset. The sound of the wind in the trees. A smile from a loved one. A home. A job.  Grace upon Grace. Goodness upon goodness. He has given me so much!

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (Col. 1:14,16)

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit,who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  (Psalms 103:1-5)

And yet I zoom in on what I don’t have or don’t like. At  the center of my complaining heart is a heart that believes it deserves better than what God has given it. My lips sing that God is “my all in all” while my heart accuses Him that He is not enough. ..I must have Him and these circumstances going in my favor. Lord, help me keep my focus on all the blessings that you have given me!

Is the gratitude that flows out of your life as abounding as the grace that has flowed into your life? (Nancy Leigh Demoss Wolgemuth)

A complaining heart is also a heart that fails to believe God’s promises. We can surely quote Romans 8:28-29 all day long, but then we complain about that student or parent that God has brought into our lives. Wait, does Romans 8:28-29 only refer to some things working out for good? Is that issue with a parent, student, or coworker an exception to that promise of God?

Confess your heart of ingratitude

I am so quick to skip over confession. God convicts me of something, and I determine that I will do better…but do I actually take the time to stop and confess it to Him? After all, remember that our complaining hearts are a direct attack against Him! Complaining is not just a little faux pas, a minor “slip up” in good behavior. It is an act of rebellion against the One who gave all for us.

Let me encourage you to go beyond just a quick prayer that asks God to “forgive you for complaining”. Get alone with Him. Take time to meditate on Scripture that shows what God has to say about complaining. Confess to Him which specific promises and character traits you are failing to believe when you complain.

Grow a heart of gratitude

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17, emphasis added)

Start your morning with praise – as you get ready in the morning, turn on some good music that will focus your mind on what God has done for you. As you shower and prepare your breakfast, check where your thoughts are going. Are you continually thinking about how tired you are, how much grading you have to do, the unfair demands of a parent, or the discipline problems of a student? Replace those thoughts with a time of praising God in prayer. Start thanking Him for what He has given you, what He has promised you for the day, and Who He is. Keep a gratitude journal.  Throughout the day, when you are tempted to complain verbally or in your heart, refuse to dwell on those complaints a single moment. Turn them into prayer and praise.

Lord, I confess I am so frustrated at this student right now. He just will not turn in his homework! But you know what is going on. You knew that I would come up against this issue again today. Thank you that you are wanting to use this situation to grow both this student and myself. Lord, I don’t know how to help him – but I thank you that YOU promise to give wisdom to anyone who asks for it. I can’t handle this on my own, but thank you that I don’t have to! Thank you for the grace that you have given me when I failed to meet your standards.

I love this quote from Nancy Leigh Demoss Wolgemuth:

I have learned in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship.

Replace your whining with worship! Share that worship with others and allow them to revel in the blessings that God has given instead of commiserating together over what is going wrong.

Let me promise you – it will be a battle. Just as you have to continually be on your guard with those pesky weeds in your garden and will continue to fight them, you must continually be on your guard in fighting a heart of ingratitude.  Saturate yourself in God’s Word. Determine that you will choose, by the grace of God, to respond in worship & praise to whatever circumstances that God brings your way.

Yes, there are many things that are difficult in teaching – but the secret to peace and gratitude is realizing that God knows, has allowed those things, and promises to be with you and help you in them.

Remember the words of Paul, sitting in a filthy jail – unfairly imprisoned in horrible circumstances, separated from friends & family, unable to continue his ministry in the way that he had planned.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11b-13)


*I heartily recommend the book Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss if you are looking for a solid, Biblical approach to joy & gratitude.

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