I recently pulled up behind a car with a bumper sticker that read “Stop Global Whining.”
As I laughed (it was the first one I’d seen) and craned my neck to see what the driver looked like, I thought about that phrase. Of course, there’s the intended double entendre with global warming. But aside from that, I think the sticker writer has a point. The world seems to be engaged in a major case of the “whines.”
As sophisticated adults, we don’t sound like three-year-olds when we whine. We’ve managed to lose that irritating intonation that drives parents of young children up the wall. But listen to the words, and we aren’t disguising it very well. Admit it. Adults whine.
Of course, there’s plenty to whine about. The world isn’t perfect, and it won’t be until Jesus comes back and makes us a shiny new one. Politics alone provides plenty of fodder. Add in the weather, and you’ll never run out of material.
We mostly tend to gripe about things we can’t control… not only the weather and the actions of elected officials we didn’t vote for (or those we did), but anything we perceive to be beyond our influence. The boss is annoying, our spouse is never home, the professor is unreasonable… I’m sure you can come up with your own list. We whine instead of trying to do something useful about the situation.
Whining may be annoying, but it’s pretty harmless, right? Right?
Well, what does God say about it?
The Israelite were professional complainers. They grumbled about slavery in Egypt. They complained when they were trapped between pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. They moaned about a lack of water, a lack of cucumbers and melons, leeks and onions, and a lack of food in general. When God provided manna, they asked for meat. They didn’t like the leadership Moses provided, they didn’t like the “giants” in the land God was giving them, and they didn’t like wandering in the desert for 40 years. In fact, it seems the only time they weren’t whining was right after God pulled off yet another miracle on their behalf.
Unfortunately for them, God really doesn’t appreciate whining.
In Numbers 11:1, it’s recorded that “… the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord.” Bad idea. (And is there anywhere that isn’t in the hearing of the Lord?) The verse continues, “… his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” Wow.
Three chapters later, they still haven’t learned. “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites” (Numbers 14:27). Here God calls His people wicked for complaining. This sounds serious.
It would seem that complaining to God about our lives is the same as telling Him that we don’t like the job He’s doing. We’re more capable of meeting our own needs than is the God of the universe. We’d rather run our own lives, thank you very much.
God puts up with our whining and griping. For me, that’s good news. While I see the problem, I still struggle with my own attitudes. (I’ve even given my family permission to call me out whenever they hear me complaining about anything.) Even David, “a man after God’s own heart,” talks about complaining in a number of his psalms (see Psalm 64:1 and Psalm 142:2 for starters). Yet, he approaches God with humility and a willingness to let God be God. In return, God is gracious, listens to David’s problems, and answers his prayers.
Still, it’s better not to whine in the first place. In today’s culture, not whining will really make us stand out. Philippians 2:14-15 sums it up nicely: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe….”
We need to take responsibility for the things we grumble about. Maybe instead of complaining about things, God wants to use us to change them. After all, we’re well aware of the need. This is where I’m attacking my own propensity to whine. Instead of thinking about what’s wrong—and worse, carping about it to someone else—I try to remember to ask God if there’s any way He’d like me to get involved. Prayer is always a good starting point. Maybe we can’t do anything about the government, or the weather… or maybe we can.
If we’re complaining about our spouse, friend, or someone else we know personally, consider what it is that is really annoying us. Maybe I complain that my husband works to much—but the real problem is that I feel ignored and unloved. That’s the issue we need to work on. If I feel cherished by my sweetie, the long work hours become a mere annoyance.
Whatever the source of our complaining, we need to remember that we’ve agreed to let God run our lives. Perhaps the best antidote to whining is thanksgiving. Imagine how the Bible would read if the Israelites had spent their energies telling God thank you for bringing them out of slavery and into the promised land?
Do you know people who whine all the time? Do you find yourself whining about things in your life?