Faith and Family

Lynn Jones: Don’t give in to grumbling

By Lynn Jones

I once observed a sign on the door of a place of business that advised, “No bellyachin’.” “Bellyachin’ is an interesting word, isn’t it? I assume it came from the fact that when people are experiencing discomfort in their stomach, most enjoy telling people about how bad their belly is aching. From this common practice, “bellyachin’” became a synonym for griping and complaining.

The practice of majoring on our complaints is nothing new. Even a casual reading of the Book of Exodus shows how often the Israelites practiced the “3 G’s,” grumbling, griping, and grousing. All along the way from Egypt to the Promised Land, they constantly aired their complaints. They complained about not having enough water or food, about the monotony of eating manna every day, and about the poor quality of leadership that Moses was giving them. 

Gripes and complaints seem to be a staple of life then and now. I read about a man who died and went to heaven. As he walked down the street of heaven upon his arrival, he saw a box labeled “Suggestions.” He was very surprised and said to St. Peter, “If everybody is supposed to be happy in heaven, why the suggestion box?” St. Peter said, “That’s the reason. Some people can’t be happy unless they can complain about something.”

What is to be our response to gripes and complaints? James Moore said that when he had finished seminary, he went to his first church ready to set the world on fire. After a short period of time, he began to get disillusioned. He encountered so many problems that one day he sat down and wrote a letter to one of his seminary professors. In the letter he listed all of the troubles and problems that he was encountering in the church. In a few days, he got a letter from his former teacher. In the letter, his old teacher talked about the weather, the spring flowers on campus, a couple of new professors, etc. He then sent his love to Moore’s family and concluded the body of the letter. At the bottom was a P. S. The P.S. read, “By the way Jim, with regard to the problems in your church, what’s a pastor for?”

He was exactly right. If there were no problems in the world, why would our ministry be needed? The fact of the matter is that God has placed us in the middle of a troubled world with a life-giving gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a home in heaven, and, in the meantime, it gives us the grace we need to cope with life’s continuing irritations and demands. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” When life becomes abundant, it has a way of putting our gripes and complaints into perspective.

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