Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.
One sure sign of a discontented person is their tendency to grumble. I’m sure you know people for whom every bus journey, every supermarket visit, every email from their boss is a cause to moan, complain, and see the worst. And that was even before the days of mask-wearing, hand-sanitising, and recurrent lockdowns.
Expressing negative thoughts reinforces them in our hearts. It also spreads them to others, who reflect them back to us in an endless loop of misery. Therefore, if you want to feel more content, stop grumbling.
However, while trying to say only positive things is a good start, grumbling is usually a symptom of a deeper sin that we need to deal with. The root of our moaning is the sense that we deserve better – or perhaps that we are better and these annoying other people should be more like us!
This is pride, and it is a significant barrier to our growth in Christ and our witness for him. We saw in Philippians 1 how Paul rejoiced that the gospel was being preached, even if he wasn’t getting the credit. That is humility at work, and far from bringing the abasement and disadvantage that we sometimes fear, Paul’s humility gave him access to great joy and pleasure.
Even Jesus – the Messiah, God-in-flesh – lived a life of grumble-free humility. The one man who really was better than everyone else, who really did deserve better than his treatment on Earth, chose to respond with humility. ‘He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant’, and therefore God gave him what he truly deserved – honour, glory and ‘the name that is above every name’ (Philippians 2:7, 9).
If you feel discontented with your lot, either on a grand scale or with the low-level day-to-day difficulties, slights and injustices you feel, take it to God. Talk to him about the ways you feel wronged and how frustrated you get with others. Ask him to forgive you for the sin of pride that so easily creeps in, and to help you become more Christ-like. Then, not only will you find yourself growing in contentment, but you will also shine among your neighbours, your fellow students or your co-workers, like a star in a clear sky. And perhaps some of them will follow the light of that star and find the Saviour, just like the Magi of old.
Jennie Pollock is a writer and editor who lives, works, and worships in central London. She blogs at jenniepollock.com and tweets as @missjenniep. Her first book, If Only: Finding joyful contentment in the face of lack and longing, is out now.