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"Breaking the Grip of Griping"
by Barbara Smith

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Phil 3:20-21)

Griping is a hallowed American privilege. From protesting the ump's call, to criticizing those who govern us, we are free to complain. Americans are free to say what is on their minds, but American Christians might pause and remember that complaining -- even in a soft voice -- is simply say God has not done enough for me; I deserves more than what God has provided.

Paul instructed the church in Philippi to "do everything without complaining or arguing." (Philippians 2:14) Paul knew that gentile converts were just as susceptible to complaining as the Jews had been. He knew his people's history and warned the gentile churches that "Grumbling Israelites were destroyed by the destroyer." (1 Corinthians 10:10 cf. Exodus 12:23) Why do believers in every generation complain? How can people who have seen the mercy and kindness of God gripe about their lives?

I think I understand why, having been caught in the grip of griping myself. Murmuring may arise from faulty vision, forgetfulness or fear.

The Bible is full of stories of people who lost sight of God, who forgot God's lovely character, and therefore feared the "giants" in their circumstances. In Numbers 13-14, ten men lost sight of their God who had called them to act. They forgot who God was, how kind, how strong, how determined He was to preserve a people for Himself.

Finally, they feared their circumstances more than they feared God.

Christians also forget the Lord's character, His strength, and His kindness. Ten men destroyed the hope of an entire nation and contradicted Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 13-14). Is it any wonder that we can wreck havoc the lives of co-workers, family, or fellow believers?

Our forgetful, careless, self-centered words hinder and demoralize our spouses, children and associates. Friends and pastors avoid grippers because they do not like being endlessly reminded how they fail. So too, spouses figure they can never do enough, so why bother? Even children will avoid close encounters with a fussbudget.

The tongue of one who complains contradicts the faith he or she is eager to expound, with every beat of the dissatisfied heart. Unspoken complaints are just as compelling. A contrived sigh, a dramatic glance ceiling-ward, or a curt "Fine, fine, I will do it myself!" fool no one. When we complain by word or deed we are deliberately ignoring what He has given us to overcome the circumstances that chaff. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3, emphasis added.)

Failing to use what God gives us to change the content of our conversation, we stumble ourselves and those who must listen to or watch us! Complaining destroys our testimony. Why should anyone surrender to Christ if all they hear are Christians who bellyache and nit-pick about their God-given assignments? Why should children seek the Lord and submit to Him if their parents constantly find fault with their Master's plans? Also, laymen who murmur do affect their pastors remember what the Israelites did for Moses? (Numbers 11:20)

What is worse, our attitudes and speech are costly when we have murmured against God. We squander the good will, patience and forbearance in those who love us. Crabbing becomes a poisonous practice that quickly undermines contentment, disables friendship and even infects physical health. It leaves a bad taste in the heart and mind of those who speak and those who must listen. Before you exercise your "rights," ask if you want to reap the reward in depression, demoralized friends and a dissipated Christian witness.

If you have lost sight of your God because of faulty vision, a bad memory or paralyzing fear, visit the throne room. It is free, and fits into any busy schedule. Consider entering God's counseling center through the Psalms. The psalmist is teaching me how to break the grip of gripping by showing me whose grip on me will never fail.

A Personal Paraphrase of Psalm 73

When I grieve for what You wisely withhold and when my spirit is embittered, I am senseless and ignorant; I am a brute beast before you, Lord Jesus. Open my eyes that I might see that you have ordained that I am always with You! Though I stumble and trip and revert to sinful outbursts, You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? Earth has nothing I desire besides You. So, I can relinquish all the disappointments and frustrations for You are enough for me. As my body fails and my physical heart weakens, my God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. What is "good" is not getting my way. What is "good" is to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds -- and not my disappointments.


© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)




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