Complaining

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Complaining…we all do it at one time or another.  As I have studied this attitude, I am reminded that an attitude of complaining stems from something deeper, an attitude of ungratefulness.  Why is it we are ungrateful?  We think we deserve more; we have ourselves on a pedestal.  We are ungrateful for what we have and think we deserve more.

 

There are various verses and stories about complaining in the Bible that I ponder when the Lord convicts me of this sin.  The one I go to frequently is the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus.  Martha invited Jesus along with His disciples into their home. She showed hospitality, but then things went downhill.  With guests in her home, a meal to be prepared, and no Pizza Hut on speed dial, she had much work to do to prepare the meal.  Rather than listen to Jesus as Mary did, Martha scurried around preparing the meal probably muttering under her breath how much work needed to be done and she had to do it all by herself.  Eventually, she had enough and she told Jesus she had had enough.  Jesus chastised her right there for her wrong priorities.  Yet, I often think, “Someone had to prepare the meal.”  Martha was complaining because Mary was not living up to Martha’s expectations.  We all have multiple people in our lives that do not live up to our expectations, so what do we do about it?

 

We must ask ourselves a few questions:

  1. Is the person sinning? Mary was not sinning, far from it she was sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Could she be accused of not having a servant’s attitude and being lazy?  This is our only story about this, so it does not seem to be a pattern of behavior for Mary.  If a pattern is seen, then we ask ourselves the next question.
  2. Did we talk with the person about the behavior? If this is a onetime occurrence, maybe we need to evaluate our own priorities.  If this is a pattern of behavior, then we begin the principles outlined in Matthew 18.  Talk with the person.  If that does not resolve the issue, take a friend or two.  It is not recorded here that Martha even went to Mary.  If she had, Mary may have told Martha she would be happy to help, but she wanted to listen for a while.
  3. What are we assuming about the person? What are our expectations about the person?  Have we walked in the other person’s shoes to understand them?  Rather than talk about all the injustice, we must let the other person know our thoughts.  It may be uncomfortable, but we may see their perspective on the matter.  If we continue to complain without talking things over with the other person, are we enabling wrong behavior in them and hurting ourselves with the frequent sin of complaining?

 

When we complain about the traffic, we show how ungrateful we are for our cars and paved roads.  We could have to walk on dirty paths with sandals to get where we are going.  When we complain about our house, we show an ungrateful attitude for the house God has given us.  I think you get the picture here.  When we had multiple showings for our house and I complained, I showed my lack of gratefulness for the traffic we had to look at the house.  The overwhelming responsibilities I have right now are many, but when I complain I forget how God brought us here to this place and how He is taking care of me and my family.

 

We are part of such a selfish society today, and yet when sacrifice is noticed it is highly valued though often times taken advantage of.   Rather than complain, be grateful.  If a situation arises, do not complain, do something about it.  Do we complain because we are lazy ourselves and are afraid to deal with the situation?  Above all, we must pray about these situations and let God be our guide.

 

 

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Comfort

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Comfort is something many of us desire, long for, and hope for.  Comfort is freedom from pain, grief, or physical distress.  Most if not all of us would admit that we long for the easy life.  We want to have plenty of money without working.  We want to be in peak physical shape without exercising.  We want to have harmony in our homes and have all of our needs met.  We all want comfort, to be free from any type of discomfort that causes pain and distress.

 

In the middle of Psalm 23 David tells us “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (v. 4).  When a man or boy became a shepherd he would pick out a piece of wood and carve it to fit his hand and strength perfectly in order to make his own rod.  The rod was used as an extension of his arm and used as a weapon against the enemies of the sheep.  The shepherd would throw the rod with extreme accuracy at whatever was coming to harm the sheep.  This was the shepherd’s offensive weapon to protect his sheep.

 

The other tool the shepherd carried was his staff.  This is the instrument we see in pictures typically carried by the shepherd.  It is a long hooked rod that can be used in various ways to care for the sheep.  Sheep have a tendency to wander off clueless of the danger they are getting themselves into.  They may wander close enough to the edge of a cliff and fall, so the crook of the staff is placed around the sheep in order to draw it back from danger.  The sheep may also wander into a thick patch of brambles and briers seeking the perfect mouthful of grass only to be stuck in the brier patch unable to move.  The shepherd uses the crook of his staff again to pull the sheep from its stuck position.

 

The sheep may be so hard headed and stubborn that the shepherd may use the crook of the staff to break the leg of the sheep so it can no longer wander from the shepherd.

 

My God knows my heart.  He knows when I need rescued, but He also knows when I need my “leg broken.”  My God loves me and can see the enemy, even when I cannot see him.  He throws His rod at my enemy countless times without me being aware.  Which do we find greater comfort in?  Which produces more growth in our lives?

 

Every trial we face is not necessarily because we are sinning or “lured and enticed by our own desires.” (James 1:14).  We may be walking with the Lord and meet a trial because He is drawing us closer.

 

I am working with Lilly, our ten month old Leader Dog for the blind puppy, on walking on a leash.  She struggles with walking on a loose leash.  She has times of perfect contentment walking by my side, but the distractions come and she begins to strain at the leash oftentimes choking herself.  I wonder how often I am walking along the path of life with God and I am straining at the leash.  I wouldn’t dream of leaving God’s side to hunt for greener pastures down the cliff or in the brier patch, but just a bit outside the length of the leash would be an acceptable morsel to satisfy my misguided desires.

 

These acceptable morsels may be a spirit of complaining, discontent, or not being thankful.  So God sends a trial to “break our leg” and draw us back even closer to Himself.  Does the trial produce comfort?  Not in the least.  Do we stop choking on the end of the leash because we stop straining?  Absolutely!  As I work with Lilly and she understands how vital a loose leash is, I tighten the leash to draw her closer to my side.  I have a certain spot I want her in that will eventually provide comfort to the blind person she will lead.  God also has a certain spot for us that He wants us in.  He continues to draw us closer to Him.  This closeness is what provides the comfort.

 

Where are you?  Where am I?  Over the cliff?  In the brambles and briers?  Straining at the end of the leash?  Walking closely by the Shepherds side?  Until we get to glory, God will be drawing us closer and closer to Him.  Be thankful He cares so much for you that He keeps drawing you closer.

 

Sold

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For the last two years my husband, Dave, has been working in Grand Rapids which is a 2.5 hour drive away from where we currently live.  On April 1, we put our house on the market anticipating a move date by June 15.  We did not anticipate any issues with selling our home; it is in a great location with a beautiful backyard and many updates throughout the house.  At least we thought we would not have any issues.  Little did I realize when we started this process that it would take over 80 showings before the perfect buyer would appear and fall in love with our home.  With that many showings, the places to go begin to be limited and our gracious neighbors would let us invade their home time and again while we vacated our home.  When we happened to catch a glimpse of the people looking at our home, my heart would sink.  Those people won’t take care of my home, they won’t love it and keep it clean like I have.  After over 80 showings though, I began to care less and less.  I began to wonder if I should clean the house before or after the people left.  Our daughters were fabulous and now have this down to a science.

 

God brought us a buyer this week, and not just any buyer.  The wonderful family that is buying our home wrote us the sweetest letter.  Quote from the letter “We have looked at many, many homes and not many of them had the feeling of homeowner pride until we saw your home.  We are looking for a home that is loved as much as we love our home.  We appreciate the overall house and all the time, effort, and love that went to creating it…we will continue to make your home a warm and loving place…”  God blesses us “exceedingly and abundantly more than we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

This is still a difficult process as we pack up almost 17 years of memories, but the same God who provided these special people to buy our home goes before us preparing more special people who will help us create new memories.  We must not forget to notice the many blessings God gives us and thank Him for them.

 

Written on a card on my desk right now is Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” I don’t want to ever forget to say “thank-you” to God.  I don’t want my thinking to become futile nor my heart to become dark.

 

When the girls were little, my mom bought them a chalk board with magnetic letters around it.  As we have been packing and cleaning, it was moved to the garage to be moved since it was something we did not need.  This chalk board has changed from something we didn’t need to something that has been encouraging and inspirational to all of us.  We come up with words that represent the day or an attitude we are to have.

 

Don’t forget to say “thank-you.”  Remember to look for the little blessings and thank God for those.  We must never take for granted the little things because God has His hand in those just as much as He has His hand in the big things in life.

The Tapestry of Trials

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Trial, tribulation, pressure, anguish, burden, trouble, test.  What are the purposes of these in our lives?  We all go through various kinds of trials in our lives with varying levels of difficulty.  We all ask similar questions when going through these trials:  why, how long, what’s the cost, what did I do wrong, what lesson am I supposed to learn, etc.

 

When I went to nursing school, I had various tests to study for throughout the years, but then in order to become a registered nurse, I had to take a State Board exam.  While studying for this test, one of the things the review class taught me was how to take the test.   Not only was there information to learn, review, and study; but it was also important to understand how to take the test.  Understanding how to take the test is just as important as knowing the information.

 

When we encounter various trials in our lives, we must understand “how to take the test.”  When Job completed his test, “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10).  Job endured his test for the simple fact that God wanted to prove to Satan that Job was faithful to Him.  God has also used this man’s life as an encouragement to many. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4).  II Corinthians 1:4 also shows us that the purpose of Job’s suffering was “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  How many people have looked to Job in the midst of his suffering and been encouraged to press on and not give up hope?

 

James 1 and Romans 5 both tell us that our attitude toward the trial is to be one of joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” (James 1:2).  “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…” (Romans 5:3).  Joy is not a passing feeling that comes and goes.  Joy is an attitude, a perspective, a conscious decision.  In the midst of a trial, the last thing we feel like doing is making a decision to be joyful.  As I was riding with our daughter, Denise, to Children’s Hospital in the ambulance knowing she had a mass in her brain, the last thing I felt was joy.  Rather, I felt anguish.  All I knew to do was to cry out to God, and be as reassuring and comforting to her as I could.  My choice was not anger, but rather total and complete dependence on Him for what was to come.  I made a conscious choice.

 

According to James and Paul in Romans the purpose of these trials is also to produce patience in our lives.  How difficult this is because we are finite creatures.  God who is eternal is not bound by time.  His patience is limitless, but ours is very shortsighted.  During a trial, we just want it to be done.  Yet in the midst of these trials, God “knows that suffering produces endurance (patience), and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:4).

 

All of the nursing exams I took, were for one purpose: to become a Registered Nurse.  God has a purpose in each and every trial we endure, each and every challenging circumstance we face, and each and every dilemma we encounter.  “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).

 

We will never truly understand God’s purposes. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?…For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:34-36).

The trials we endure will produce something in our lives.  What it produces is up to us.  Will face each trial with a decision to learn and be fully dependent on God, or will we face the trials with bitterness and anger.  I have had various trials in my life, and I have faced them both ways.  When we are bitter, there can be no joy.  When there is joy, it chases away the bitterness.  Satan makes us think that by holding onto the pain and the injustice of the situation we will feel better.  That is a lie.  Holding onto the pain, takes away the joy we may have in other areas of our lives.

 

I have two friends who are currently battling cancer. My sister has endured much with her children.  The list could go on.  We have all been through trials, and it seems the trials we have endured have been enough, but God’s plans are not ours. When I pray for those that are enduring these difficult trials and ponder these thoughts that I have written, I come back to how little I understand and how great God is.  The tapestry of our lives is woven by an infinite God who has the pattern for the finished product.  We only see a small portion.  So we must “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7).