Stop Your Complaining-From Grumbling to Gratitude
By: Ronnie Martin
CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034
8 Chapters, 126 pages
I purchased this book on the recommendation of Tim Challies on his website as one of the books I wanted to read while recovering from knee replacement surgery. I didn’t think I needed it mind you. I simply thought it would be an interesting read on a discipleship\counseling topic from an author I never heard of. The subject matter is complaining or grumbling and I had thought I do a pretty good job of tapping down that tendency.
After my surgery just as I was starting to read the book I was limping around with a moderate amount of pain when I stubbed my toe on the non-surgical leg. My wife was not home and after a rather normal “that really hurts” yelp I said out loud, “seriously.” No big deal you say? Well, who was I talking to since I was the only one home? The fact is whether or not I was conscience of it at the moment my comment was directed at God.
I was born with genetically bad feet and have struggled with them since the 3rd grade. Over the years, the foot problems has led to knee problems and knee replacements. I’ve had eight surgeries with one to go to try and eliminate the pain in the feet and knees I’ve had over the years. Ask anyone who has dealt with chronic pain and they will tell you how it wears on you as you just get tired of it-period.
My “seriously” comment was I grumbling to our sovereign God for allowing me to stub my toe on top of a painful knee replacement. I was saying how could you let this happen knowing what I just went through. That’s me on the pity-pot I’m afraid. It was a big deal and I’m ashamed to admit that I privately complain or grumble far more than I’ve ever realized.
This is the kind of thing the author, Ronnie Martin, discusses very well in a readable, easy style while admitting he is the king of complainers. With that admission, Martin helped me realize that I, too, could easily claim the title and I’ll bet most of you could as well.
Martin points out it is our nature to complain and grumble regardless of how good our theology is. Out of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34) and, frankly, when we “get away” with it, our mouth often says things we’d never say in front of our pastors or Bible study group less they think we are the sinners we are. We’re pretty good private sinners and like to keep it that way.
On the other hand, we can easily identify the chronic complainers and grumblers in our midst because they have no problem doing so in front of others. We judge them as grumblers or complainers and hate to be around them and yet struggle with the same thing when it’s safe, like when we are alone or with someone “who will understand.”
Martin calls himself out in the book and, in doing so, encourages the rest of us to do likewise as he realizes that complaining/grumbling is one of those sins most of us do not take all that seriously, while God clearly does. Martin cites ample Scripture to make God’s case.
The book is divided into eight chapters in two four-part sections titled 1) Locating Complaining and 2) Combating Complaining.
Here is the Chapter breakdown with parenthetical comments from me:
Part One-Locating Complaining
Chapter One: The Art of Complaining (We are good at complaining. It is present even as redeemed sinners)
Chapter Two: Holy Complaining (Holy discontentment is not the same as complaining or grumbling. Martin says, “this is not the way it’s suppose to be and I don’t like it.” What he means is in reference to what is called the noetic effects of sin. We live in a fallen, sin cursed world where we experience the result of the fall and are sinned against and sin against others. These kind of things should be discussed with people we love and trust to motivate us toward making godly changes that glorify the Lord.)
Chapter Three: The Origins of Complaining (Adam and Eve-complaining is casting blame on God like I did with my “seriously” grumble.)
Chapter Four: The Comfort of Complaining (The truth is we like to complain because there is some sort of pay off as in “gee, I feel a whole lot better since I downloaded all my complaints on you.)
Part Two-Combating Complaining
Chapter Five: The Exhaustible Pursuit of Happiness and the Inexhaustible Work of Joy (The key difference between pursuing happiness or joy.)
Chapter Six: The Undeserved Grace of Gratefulness (Grace should humble us and expressing gratitude is our sanctification against grumbling.)
Chapter Seven: Affected by Complaining (Be killing sin or it will be killing you. John Owen)
Chapter Eight: Abstaining from Complaining (We have all the spiritual tools we need in order to change from a heart of grumbling to a heart of gratitude.)
Each chapter ends with reflection questions making the book ideal for personal or small group study.
From the back cover: Ronnie Martin is the lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio and contributing writer to the Gospel Coalition and EFCA Today Magazine.
I recommend the book and think most Christians would find it helpful as well.