Children have a reputation for being complainers. “John wrecked my fort!” “Why can’t I have more ice cream?” “There’s too much jelly on this sandwich!”
But before you pull a muscle nodding your head in agreement, don’t forget that we’re all children of somebody. Which means we’re all complainers. And the older we get, the bigger our complaints tend to be. In fact, we don’t just complain to other humans, we even complain to God.
Is it wrong?
On one hand, there is the principle that we need to try maintain peace in all circumstances in life. If God allows something bad to happen to us, He has his reasons. After all, He’s not just concerned with our current well-being. He’s concerned with preparing us for eternity. But does that mean we can’t pipe up about these issues in our lives? Can we not voice some displeasure?
Scripture seems to indicate we can. Turn with me to the Psalms.
Psalms is the one book of the Bible we read pretty much at every Mass. And it’s full of complaining. In fact, more than 40 Psalms are actually categorized as songs of lament or complaint. Psalm 142:2 unabashedly declares, “I pour out my complaint before him, I tell my trouble before him.”
Of course, complaining to God is one thing. Grumbling against God is another.
Case in point, the Israelites in the wilderness. They were a constant pain in the keister to Moses and God. “We need more food!” “We need more water!” “Why did you make us come here?” (Sound familiar parents?)
It got so bad at one point that they even grumbled against the manna – the miraculous bread God provided every day – calling it “worthless food.” Not a good idea. In a scene reminiscent of Indiana Jones descending into the tomb containing the Ark of the Covenant, God sent fiery serpents among the Israelites. Many died.
St. Paul makes reference to this scene when he warns against grumbling in 1 Corinthians 10:9-10. “We must not put the to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”
So what’s the difference between complaining and grumbling?
While grumbling pits us against the other person, we complain to people who we think want to take care of us. The psalmist can complain because he knows God the perfect Father loves him. It’s a relationship grounded in love that confidently believes God will ultimately take care of him. It’s the same with us.
In fact, it’s even better.
Joined to Christ through the sacraments, we are “sons in the Son.” We can approach Almighty God in complete confidence – even when complaining – knowing that He loves us as children.
Of course, we all know that parents respond better to gratitude than complaining. And to be honest, we don’t deserve any of the good things God gives us. Strive to be grateful in all things, but have the security and confidence of a perfectly loved child.
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