Hey, I have a RIGHT to complain! Oh, really?


Complain, Complain, Complain

When other people whine, they’re complaining.
When we whine, we’re just telling it like it is.

Too bad that’s not true.

Complaining is ugly no matter who it’s coming from, including our own mouths.

About eight years ago I read a very old but very important book (written in the 1600s), The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs. I had to slough through the old language, even though it had been partially updated (see, I’m complaining already). But the effort was worth it.

One by one, Burroughs examined a wide range of excuses we make. And how we justify each one. And even though the vocabulary was from his era, the content is as modern as 2017.

Which excuses do you use?

Here are seven excuses, followed by Burrough’s responses busting each one wide open (all in my own words).

  1. I’m not even really complaining; I’m just telling it how it is.

Then why aren’t you also telling of God’s grace in your problem? That’s also “how it is.”

Then why have you stopped doing the good things you could be doing, even with this problem?

Then why are you envious of others who don’t have your problem?

  1. I’m not troubled by my problem; I’m just troubled by my sin.

Then why weren’t you bothered by your sin before you got in trouble for it?

Then why aren’t you bothered by your sin once the problem goes away?

Then why aren’t you doubly concerned about adding grumbling on top of your current sin?

Then shouldn’t you now submit even more under God’s hand in the midst of this problem?

  1. God has abandoned me in my trouble.

Does it honor God for you to blame him if he is disciplining you?

Are you grumbling because God is gone, or is God gone because you are grumbling? [Personal note… I don’t believe God disappears like this.]

Even if God were distant from you, do you think it’s helpful for you to leave him as well?

  1. If it were God disciplining me, I wouldn’t complain. But it’s people.

Isn’t man but an instrument in God’s hand?

Aren’t you in a better state by being wronged, instead of being the one doing the wrong?

Even if men are doing evil, shouldn’t you still be praising God for the mercies that he is giving you?

  1. This problem caught me off guard; otherwise, I would handle it better.

Do you not expect to have troubles from time to time?

Don’t you have unexpected blessings as well? Do you grumble when the good things catch you off guard?

  1. But my problems are exceptionally hard.

Isn’t your sin still greater than your troubles?

Couldn’t it be even worse?

Aren’t you making your problems even worse by complaining about them all the time?

  1. My pain is worse than your pain.

Could your discontent be making it even more painful?

Even if your pain is worse, should you complain that God is showing grace to another?

Then don’t you have a greater opportunity to honor God more than others?

If all pain were equally divided, wouldn’t yours still be below average?

After reading all seven excuses, are you as convicted as I am? This doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our problems; it just means we attempt to be aware of the whole picture, not just the bad, but also the good, too.

Contentment is a “rare jewel” indeed, Mr. Burroughs.

* * *

Which excuse for complaining do you use most often? Please share in the comments.

The last I checked, the Kindle edition is only $.99 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, if you’re interested.

revised from the archives

31 thoughts on “Hey, I have a RIGHT to complain! Oh, really?

  1. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! Complaining seems to be a ‘go to’ response for many, including me sometimes. It’s hard to see the bigger picture, or how truly blessed we are, when we’re in the middle of our own painful journey.
    I think I’d lean toward the excuse that I’m not complaining, I’m just telling it how it is. It excuses me from losing heart, and burdening others with my problems.

  2. Jean Wise

    Love that cartoon. Brought back memories from family car trips. There was always at least one emotional breakdown point. Excuses – us humans excel with them don’t we? I am trying to be more aware when I hear myself say one or ask myself if this is true or really only an excuse. It’s easier at time to complain than to do the work – another excuse.

  3. Trudy

    We are so easily discontented, aren’t we? I’m so grateful God is so patient and gracious with us. Sometimes my heart complains against Him, and I feel so guilty. I’m learning to talk with Him about it. Isn’t it amazing how He listens and is so compassionate? Thank you, Lisa, for reminding me “This doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our problems; it just means we attempt to be aware of the whole picture, not just the bad, but also the good, too.” Love and hugs to you!

  4. Jule

    Lisa- yikes, I’m a complainer too. I probably tend to use #6 and #7, I sound selfish don’t I?
    The book sounds very applicable to 2017. We’re still complaining:)

  5. Joanne Viola

    Wonderful post & insights, Lisa. We truly are pretty good at complaining. The thing I am learning is that complaining is contagious, as is gratitude. So the question I am asking myself this morning is – Which would I like to have others catch from me?

    Grateful to read your thoughts this morning!

  6. floyd

    Wow. Great post! I need to keep this in my pocket and whip it out every time I’m beginning to complain. If whining was a virtue I’d be a saint!

    Kidding about a chronic problem in all of a softening society.

  7. Lux G.

    Oh, I can imagine Moses’ pain and burden.
    God loves us so much if we think about it. We throw stones and blames at him every single day but He blesses us still.

    This is really enlightening, Lisa. I sometimes forget how blessed I am that I start to complain. But really, I don’t have the right.

  8. Ashley Davis

    Definitely number 5. I’ve often said something like that. When things catch me off guard, I don’t always handle them the best way. Praise God that He is still working on me.

  9. Sarah Geringer

    I can’t lie, this was an uncomfortable post to read (but I needed to hear it). Especially #1, I often frame my complaining as “venting.” I have found if I vent to God first, I don’t need to vent to others nearly as much. Your neighbor at #faithnfriends this week.

  10. Debbie Kitterman

    Lisa – Love the comic with Moses. LOL so great.. I have to say, #1 I’m not complaining, I am just letting you know what’s going on so you can pray, or know, or … many of the other things I will as to not allow it to be complaining.

    thanks for linking up with #TuneInThursday this week. Sorry for my delay in stopping by, it has been a busy week 🙂

  11. TC Avey

    I hate complainers…yet I’m guilty of doing it.
    This here hit me, “Then don’t you have a greater opportunity to honor God more than others?”

    We can honor God by how we respond to our trials. We can offer the sacrifice of praise when we choose to honor Him and bless Him instead of moan and complain about the pain we are in.

    Great post. Heavy hitter.
    #2 had me shouting “AMEN”!
    True for me and for so many that I know 🙂

  12. Carol

    Oh Lisa – this is a bit of an ouch! It’s a good one though. I really like your questions and a plan to think through. I’m facing some rather obnoxiously painful things in my life right now and I WANT to complain. In all honesty, the main reason I haven’t is that it’s confidential. THAT is not on your list of questions. I’m working hard on focusing on God’s grace and blessings. This post is excellent!!

  13. Amanda

    Complaining is never the answer even though sometimes it feels good to vent it really is counter productive and doesn’t help you move forward. Enjoyed the reflection.

  14. Mary Geisen

    Oh I have heard and used some of those excuses before. I relate to number one because I think far too often we feel we have the right to “tell it like it is.” But we are missing the point if God’s grace is not part of the equation. Thank you for these words today!

  15. Laura Thomas

    Oh goodness—you got me there! Funny how we can’t stand to hear others whine and complain, yet never seem to notice our own pitiful moaning! I’m awfully grateful that God is ever-patient and and so gracious and forgiving! Thanks for this reminder today, Lisa! Stopping by from #CountingMyBlessings 🙂

  16. Ruth

    Looks like God has us on the same track talking about grumbling and complaining. The Lord reminded me of Philippians 2:14,15 after you visited my blog. We are not shining the light of Christ when we are complaining; it’s more like we are throwing dirt on the windows so the light can’t get through.

  17. Karen Del Tatto

    It’s so hard to be around people who complain all the time. No matter how hard I try to put a positive spin on things, here comes another complaint, and then I’m complaining in my head because their complaining! It’s a vicious cycle.

    I remember someone saying that being around someone who complains is like having someone blow cigarette smoke in your face. How unpleasant and how true!

    Thanks for spurring us on to talk to the Lord in all things.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. You make a great point, Karen: I often find myself complaining about complainers, too. The pot calling the kettle black. That’s a vivid analogy using cigarette smoke; I’ll have to remember that when I’m the one blowing smoke in someone else’s face with my complaints! Thanks for sharing this.

  18. Barbie

    Oh man, I’ve spent too long in the camp of complainers. One of my children recently told me that I was more negative than any of then. If that doesn’t wake you up, I’m not sure what will. These days I’m practicing making proclamation out of my mouth of God’s promises for me. Thank you for sharing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lori. We can think of numerous ways to justify our complaining, yes? Unfortunate, but true. Thankful for grace to turn that around when we catch it.

  19. bluecottonmemory

    Sounds like a good book for my shelves! It has been interesting watching each of my 5 sons personalities and what they do with those things that draw out whining and complaints. Some are glass half empty; some are glass half full; some are pragmatists. I’m a glass half full kind of girl, but I have to fight not to sit in a whiny mess and wallow. I’ve had to train myself that “What you speak is what you get.” Whine begets nothing but more whine! You’ve given us good food for thought and speech!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It is an excellent book. I need to re-read it again because I know I would glean from it each time. You speak truth, Maryleigh: “Whine begets nothing but more whine!” That’s a statement worth remembering.

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