A Cure for Complaining

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“Count your blessings, name them one by one.” These words of an old hymn contain a prescription for an ill that has troubled people young and old for centuries.

In the Old Testament books of Exodus and Numbers, the children of Israel had this problem which ultimately led to some serious consequences meted out by God. After being delivered from a life of bondage in Egypt, Moses began to lead God’s people to the promised land.  It didn’t take very long into the journey for the complaining to begin: “What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:24); “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out…to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3); “…our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:5)

Does any of that sound familiar? Do our kids ever complain about what there is to eat or dramatically state that we have nothing to eat in the house and they’re going to die of hunger any minute? How do complaints of that nature make us feel? When we as parents are the ones providing for them, it feels like a complaint against us, doesn’t it? How do you think God feels when His children complain to Him?  Complaining is not exclusive to young children; we too are sometimes guilty of grumbling about our circumstances in life.

So what is the cure? How do we combat feelings of discontent in ourselves and in our children? By counting our blessings. It is a conscience decision to keep our focus on God rather than our circumstances. When we take our eyes off of God and start looking around us, we can very easily become discontented and the complaining will soon begin. When we take our eyes off of our own circumstances and look to God, our hearts will be overflowing with thankfulness for everything He has done for us and continues to do. Here is an exercise I used to do with my children when they were young and it can work for us as well…

When my kids used to start whining and complaining about something, I would immediately make them sit down and start writing down things they were thankful. The minimum requirement was 5 things but as they got older, the minimum was 10. At first, they would say they couldn’t think of 5 things. (This would probably be because they were still in a very ill humor!) So, I would make helpful suggestions like: the warm sunshine, a comfortable bed, a favorite pet, or a sibling. :) With a little prodding, they would start to think of things on their own and guess what? Their lists often progressed far beyond the minimum requirement. Once they started focusing on what they were thankful for, they didn’t want to stop writing. Then they would want to show me (or read to me) their lists. Instead of complaining to me, they wanted to share with me their thankful hearts. (They even progressed to the point that they would include their siblings on the list, with no prompting!)

I figure if this could work with my kids, it could work for me too. When I find a black cloud gathering in my heart and am tempted to complain, I start making a mental list of things I’m thankful for. When I contemplate all the ways that God has blessed me, it humbles my heart and dispels the cloud of discontent. Does this sound too simple? Maybe, but it is effective. It all depends on what we decide to focus our hearts on.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

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