Do you often find yourself complaining about the many little unpleasant things that happen in your daily life? From waking up late and missing the train to school to your annoying friends or siblings; about the heavy workload and assignments given by your teachers, or about the high-speed internet connection that was just not fast enough to your liking.

We are all too familiar with these ungrateful comments that consciously (or unconsciously) come out of our mouths daily. Whenever something doesn’t go our way, we easily get annoyed, and our first impulse is to complain. 

“An ungrateful teenager” is a stereotype often attached to us, which unfortunately holds some truth.

We might think it’s okay (and normal) to spurt out our vexation whenever we feel like it; however, the Bible teaches us not to take this sin lightly. We may not realise it, but complaining is no less deadly a sin as idolatry.  

The deadly cost of complaining 

Most of us would be familiar with the story of the Israelites being delivered from slavery in Egypt. During their journey towards Canaan, the Promised Land, the Israelites started to complain towards God. 

God had given them plentiful manna to eat, yet they had other cravings, grumbling at the entrance of their tents for God to give them meat. 

“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4a-6) 

Soon, God granted them meat, yet the Israelites continued to grumble over their hardships. 

When some of the men, sent to explore the land of Canaan and observe its people, returned to the camp with bad news, the Israelites grumbled once again. Upon hearing

how big, strong, and powerful the Canaanites were, and how the Israelites would not stand a chance if they were to attack them, they wished they had stayed in Egypt, where they seemingly had a better life with safety and comfort. 

“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2-4)

They even rebelled against Moses and Aaron, wanting to stone them, then choose a new leader and go back to Egypt. 

All their grumblings made God furious. He had already provided the Israelites with so many blessings, yet they were still ungrateful and complained a lot. Because of this, they were kept from entering the Promised Land, and as a result, destined to roam in the wilderness for forty years instead. (Numbers 14:26-35) 

Fast forward more than 3000 years later, and we still have the same disease of complaining that is no different from the Israelites’. We have been blessed abundantly, yet we keep complaining over the little things in life. We should learn from the Israelites’ mistakes and realise that complaining is the initial step away from God that will cause a multitude of destructive sins to follow. 

Just take a moment to think about some recurring sins we do. Maybe it is being envious of others, frequent fights with our siblings, or disrespecting our parents and teachers – trace it back to its root, and we’ll most likely find that it is related to being ungrateful. Ungrateful for our God; ungrateful for what God has done in us, and ungrateful for what God has given to us. All these are by no means small sins, and they all deserve God’s wrath.  

Overcoming daily life’s struggle - choosing gratitude over complaint 

Have you encountered real daily struggles choosing gratitude over complaint? 

Do you find it easier to complain than to give thanks? 

Do you easily get irritated when things don't go your way?

According to pastor and author, Paul David Tripp, the decision to complain or to give thanks are both rooted in the way we view ourselves. “Complaint”, he said, “is an identity issue -  a severe case of misplaced identity.

He wrote, “If we place ourselves in the centre of our world and reduce our concerns down to what we want and feel, we will operate with an entitled and demanding attitude.” 

This entitled attitude will spur us to complain when things are not as we want. 

Tripp added, “The universe wasn’t created - nor does it operate - to satisfy our desires. We regularly don’t or can’t get what we want.”

There, he hits the bull’s- eye, and bluntly tells us the reality that we are not the centre of the universe; the world doesn’t and will never revolve around us! Thinking so will only make us a complaining person. 

As we are sinners, we are supposed to receive God’s wrath, yet we are saved. All that we receive are undeserved blessings that God has graciously given to us, even though we are not worthy. When we recognise that we are debtors to God, and that God is not obliged to give us anything, we will be humbled, and learn to be grateful instead of complaining. 

Furthermore, the small insignificant inconveniences that we complain about in our everyday lives should be taken as practise and training for the bigger struggles that will occur later in life. As Christians, we should all expect to receive more infliction, than those of the world. Since our teen years, we should practise being grateful instead of complaining about small inconveniences, rather recognising God’s plan behind them so that we can be prepared to face bigger struggles. 

We can all learn from the God-centered mentality of apostle Paul, who could still praise God even though he was arrested and imprisoned. Looking past all of his own circumstances and hardships, instead, he focused towards God’s good plan. If we change our self-centered lives to become God-centered, we can avoid becoming slaves to our circumstances and rather, become grateful for God’s providence in our lives – trusting in God’s plan behind all of our life circumstances, no matter how different they may be to our own desires. 

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18