by Rosie Adle
Someone: “My dog was hit by a car. He’s going to make it, but my vet bill is through the roof and I feel awful for poor Rex.”
Someone Else: “Must be nice to have a dog at all. My parents wouldn’t let me have one even when I cried and begged. By the time I was old enough to get one for myself, I had a kid with dog allergies. So there you go. I’ll never get a dog, not even one that would go on to be hit by a car. Must be really nice to be you, I’d say.”
In the “Whose Life Is More Miserable?” contest, no one should want to win. And yet …
How often do we go for gold in grumbling? How often do we try to one-up each other in moaning and complaining? How hard is it for us to let someone else be more wretched than we are?
Want to hear something extreme? Philippians 2:14 says that we are to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
All things? Yikes. That’s a tall order. Especially when poor Rex is in the doggie ICU.
Location is everything, though, as we learn from House Hunters and also Bible class. The verse right before this one says that it is God who works in us. In case you missed it, this whole discussion is situated within a reflection on the person of Christ.
Christ does for us what we could never do for ourselves, not just in reference to salvation but also in sanctification. So we can approach an imperative like the one in Philippians 2:14 like we mean it — and more importantly, like God means it, knowing that what is impossible with man is possible with Him.
Let’s stretch toward that realm of the im/possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
People one-up in the hardship department when they are struggling and hurting and want someone to notice and care. So treat the grumbler in front of you like someone who is struggling and hurting. Notice. Care.
Have the sort of tender regard that you’d love for someone to have for you when you’re in the dumps. Receive the comments with quiet listening first, and kindhearted care second.
Accept that the conversation will be about the other person. Have a button in your brain marked, “It’s not about me right now.” Push it. (You may know this button by its biblical name, which is, “In humility, count others more significant than yourselves.”)
Does this mean you’re never allowed to be the person on the down-and-out end of a convo? I don’t think so. Ask yourself, “Is this senseless grumbling and disputing? Or is this me calling a thing what it is?” Some days are days of trouble, straight up. If you’re having one of those, first call upon the Lord. Then also consider calling upon a Christian friend who isn’t already actively requesting your help in some area of hardship — someone in a relatively stable stretch who will listen, listen, listen some more … and then gently steer the conversation in a godly direction. Even on your worst days, such a friend will point you toward Jesus — helping you see in Him what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise and to think about these things.
Deaconess Rosie Adle is an online instructor for the distance deaconess program of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. She has caught herself going for gold in grumbling and is thankful for forgiveness and grace and new days.