The problem with life is that it never goes how we want.
I learned in Al-anon that I can only control a few things in life. I have to accept all the other stuff and try to make the best of it.
But lots of times I choose to complain instead. Or I feel sorry for myself. Neither work. Complaining makes me and others around me miserable, and self-pity just makes me more depressed.
I was just reading today in my Bible in Philippians, and I had written a note on the page from a sermon a year ago. It says, “Paul never asks them to pray that he’ll be released from prison.” Now if you know about the apostle Paul you know he spent most of his time in prison once he started following Christ. In fact, the book of Philippians is actually a letter he wrote to Christians in Philippians from jail. So he wrote this whole letter telling them to be like Christ and stand firm and pray for other believers, but he never said, “Oh and pray for me to get out of this place!”
Could I do that? Could I be so content (like Paul claims to be in Philippians chapter 4) that I don’t even ask anyone to pray my situation gets better? While I’m in jail? (and their jails back there were bad—nothing like jail in America today!)
I recently read an old sermon by Charles Spurgeon called “The Disappointed.” In it Spurgeon says,
“Remember that God has never promised that all our expectations shall be fulfilled;…Who are you that everything should happen just as you wish? Should the weather be fine simply because you want it to be so when a thousand fields are gasping for rain? Should you have the channels of trade turned in your direction when, if that were the case, scores of others would be impoverished? Is everything in this world to be so arranged that you shall be the darling and pet of providence?”
Wow. When you put it like that, Chuck, I see things from a whole different perspective. How many times have I “asked for prayer” for my situation to change, when I was partly just trying to complain in a more church-appropriate way? Have I sought the Lord in asking Him to help me to be content in my circumstance? Have I said, “Your will be done?” Or have I whined and cried and complained like a spoiled little girl? (or like a spoiled American) Have I focused outward on others and their troubles? Or do I only care about myself?
If I really trust God, I will be willing to accept both good and bad from Him (like Job). I will accept what He sends me (although it won’t be easy) and trust that He really does work all things out for my good (Romans 8:28).
In fact, complaining actually shows that a person doesn’t really trust God at all. It’s kind of like holding up your middle finger to God and saying, “I don’t like this! You messed up!” Because if God is in control of everything, like it says in the Bible, then He can control my circumstances. And whatever He allows me to go through must be good for me in the end.
Complaining is actually rebellion towards Him. It accuses God of not doing things my way. It puts me in a toe-to-toe stance with God, and I don’t know anyone who thinks that sounds safe.
So next time I feel like complaining I want to remember to pray, “Thy will be done.” Does it sound hard to do? Yes. But like Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)