“This is getting annoying” said a woman to a female friend. Both were standing behind me in a lunch line at a training conference we were all attending. Our training track was the advanced one and most of the attendees were certified biblical counselors like me.
The woman was referring to the length of the lunch line and the short distance she and her friend had to travel from their seats to get to the line.
She was also referring to an incident that happened the previous day.
The person giving the announcements had made an honest mistake when dismissing the group for lunch. As a result one lunch line was much longer than the other so one group needed more patience than the other. I happened to be in the shorter line that day so the mistake didn’t affect me in the slightest but it clearly annoyed her given her complaints to her friend.
My thought was this gal should know better especially because she was a biblical counselor trained to help people biblically deal with their impatience and short anger fuses, lack of forgiveness and complaining hearts.
On the same day but later, I was supposed to meet my wife at the other campus where she was in a different track with friends. We were supposed to go to a store for something during a break and then get back to the training before the night session started.
Ordinarily, this would not have been a problem but my last speaker went over his time limit by 25 minutes. There wasn’t any way I could have got up and left and besides I wanted to hear what he had to say. I resigned myself to being late but inwardly was annoyed and wished he would hurry up.
It was a twenty-minute ride to the other campus but when we were finally released it was rush hour in the city where the training was held and heavy snow squalls were affecting traffic.
Few things annoy me more than driving in heavy traffic especially in the snow while running late. Inwardly, I was complaining and outwardly speaking out loud “encouraging” the other drivers to get moving (as if my venting would matter in the slightest).
It slowly dawned on me that I and the woman in the lunch line had much in common. We were complainers by nature and by choice. The only difference was I was better at hiding my complaints being alone in the car on this occasion.
Earlier one of the speakers admitted to us that he lacked patience and was a “Type A.”
He didn’t make any excuses for his lack of patience and correctly pointed out that patience was a fruit of the Spirit so any born-again believer ought to have it.
So, why is it that minor things like a little inconvenience annoy us and cause us to complain and grumble inwardly and vent outwardly? My goodness we are easily irritated!
I believe that part of the answer is that we do not see complaining and grumbling as sin or if we do we tend to see complaining as a “respectable sin” as author Jerry Bridges would put it.
In the book, Respectable Sins, Jerry defines impatience as a “strong sense of annoyance at the (usually) unintentional faults and failures of others.”
We, that is the woman and I, are guilty as charged and most likely so are you.
Grumbling and complaining seems to be one of the universal sins that only differ by degree and the opportunity to tell others just how annoyed we are. I mean really, what’s the point in being annoyed if we can’t vent!
I do not believe the solution to this problem is to pray for patience. As the speaker above said, patience is a fruit of Spirit and as such we ought to have it.
The question then becomes how do we tap into patience when we need it since we already have it.
The first step, as always, is admitting that grumbling and complaining is a problem and that it’s a sin problem. Furthermore, it’s not respectable.
If God is sovereign, and He is, then what we see as obstacles to our happiness in the moment have been put there by God for a reason. Perhaps it might occur to us that one reason is to teach his children to tap into patience and realize that there isn’t any such a thing as a respectable sin.
Consider what the apostle Paul had to say:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,…Eph. 4:1-2, NASB
Paul begins by stating he is held captive by Christ. Because he is held captive he desires to walk worthy of the calling and he desires that others would also walk worthy.
In other words we ought to make much of being held captive by our Lord because the outcome of this captivity ought to be humility, gentleness, patience and showing tolerance for others out of love. That’s respectable. Griping, grumbling, complaining, and unrighteous anger give poor testimony of our Savior.
Since this side of heaven we will always contend with sin we need to have a battle plan to fight grumbling\complaining and to put on patience. If we win these little battles it will certainly be easier to fight the larger ones when we really need patience to deal with folks acting more stubborn than ourselves (I Thess. 5:14).
I believe to put on patience we must first see inconvenience as an opportunity to glorify God. Without having a vision for God’s glory we’ll be stuck in a vision for our own glory. Our own glory is why we grumble and complain in the first place.
Second, once we see inconvenience as an opportunity to give God glory we should also realize that inconvenience is an opportunity for us to grow into Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29).
To make this work we must confront the negative emotion that drives the grumbling. We must take charge and ask what is it that we believe about the situation.
Is it God ordained? Why yes, it is!
Is it to help me grow into Christlikeness? Why yes, it is!
Answering these questions should quell the negative emotions that drive the complaining and should replace it with a more patient attitude and demeanor.
It’s been my experience that each and every day the Lord gives us ample opportunities to be inconvenienced to help us develop into the type of person He desires us to be.
Let’s not waste those opportunities.