I complain. A lot. I complain verbally and silently. I am, at the core of my being, a person who is prone to murmur and complain. I am like those dear wandering Israelites in the desert, bless their hearts.
Sometimes I just come out and say, “I hate this.” I could be talking about internal struggles with anxiety, or a time of marital stress, or having to have my Spanish corrected again.
Sometimes I just dwell on it, enjoying the taste of imagined offenses affirming my bitterness toward someone else.
Sadly, neither complaining nor stewing fits under “spiritual disciplines.”
In contrast, speaking truth to ourselves is something that every believer is called to do. Paul calls it “destroying arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God,” and “taking every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Truth speaking is reminding myself what I know is true during times when I don’t feel like it.
But the struggle I have is that many times I haven’t fully recognized the struggle, or the needed truth until I start to talk about it. At times I feel like I need to voice my struggle and err on the side of sounding like I am complaining in order to take my anxiety into the light. It seems like only then I can own it and remember the truth.
- Saying “I am struggling with culture shock” has been a way for me to battle it.
- Saying “I am really weak right now” has helped me fight the impulse of “I just need to push through.”
- Saying, “I am struggling with bitterness” has helped me to pray for the person I punish in my mind.
But then I feel like I am complaining.
Both complaining and speaking truth to myself include recognition, and often times, vocalization, of adversity. But there is a difference.
- Complaining sees no hope, while truth speaking looks to Christ.
- Complaining seeks to affirm the reasons for my bad attitude. Truth speaking reminds myself for my reasons why I don’t need to complain.
- Complaining vilifies the circumstance, person, or object. Truth speaking reveals my own sinful heart and need of Christ.
- Complaining drives me deeper into the dungeon. Truth speaking leads me out of the cell.
But just as there is a danger of really complaining when we are trying to speak truth, there is an equal danger of accusing someone of complaining when they are speaking truth. I think that if we were to have sat and listened to some of Psalmists write their poems, we would have tried to rebuke them.
So, if you ever come across someone like me, someone who is struggling to believe the truths they know are true, will you help them?
- Help them by seeing their struggle and affirming that it would be hard given the circumstance they are in.
- Help them by hearing the truths that they are trying to believe, and affirming them if they are biblical.
- Help them by praying then, and regularly, for them.
- Help them by making it safe to be honest about their struggle.