It's incredibly frustrating to hear the same person whine about the same thing over and over and over, right? Recently a friend confided how hard it is for her to hold her tongue when listening to others, particularly if they've been complaining about the same things for a long time. I get it. It is frustrating to hear the same old whining. I wanted to tell her right then that sometimes people struggle with the same issues for a lifetime. I knew that was true. But why?
Why do we spend countless hour over decades complaining about the exact same things? What is it for you? Do you eat too much or hate your fat? Is your house not big or pretty enough? Does your husband drive you absolutely batty? Are you waiting (and waiting and waiting) for God to do something spectacular in the mundane of your life?
A couple years back another woman asked about how an old mutual friend had been. "How's Hannah? She's probably struggling with the same old things, right?" Funny how for some of us the struggle is with others who struggle with the same old things. Some of us struggle with watching others who seem weak, stuck, and not being able to change them.
Mine is relationships. For several years now, friendships. I've been deeply disappointed with others and the level of
relationship they're willing to extend me. I've felt sad, alienated,
excluded, and deeply sad. So I've complained about how no one is willing
to reach back or take the time to really get to know me. I've been
whining that I don't have close friends I can call to go shopping, chat
about the kids, or cry to about my bad day. It's made for a really
intense whining season.
Here's something that recently came to me. The reason I complain about the same thing over and over again is that what I'm complaining about isn't really the problem!
Did you hear that?
It's not really other people who are my problem. It's me. Rather, it's my idol. I've strapped a golden calf to my back, and then refused to admit it's there, preferring to wallow in the aches and pains it causes me.I'm carrying around this heavy burden on my back, and I can't even name it correctly!
I've idolized human relationships, convincing myself that if I could
just get them "right," I'd be secure, never alone, filled with
friend-love, and that would be enough for me. I've made friends with a
golden calf, hoisted him up for the ride, and then hidden him from my own eyes. It
wasn't until God revealed this idolatry in my heart that I was able to
pull away from the altar and see it needed demolished entirely.
Fear accompanies giving up my complaints: Fear I'm not pulling my weight...when it wasn't a weight for me to carry. Fear
I'm not doing "my part," before I give it to God...when all God wants
is for it to be destroyed as it is, not polished first. Fear
of not having a calf to blame for my aches and pains. See, I will still
want and need relationship even after I have cast it down as an idol.
Yet friendship will be a gift given freely, lightly into my hands, by its Creator.
The truth is that once I cast off that golden calf, I will be free to stand up. I will cease to have complaints. I will be able to lift my eyes toward Heaven.
In his teaching series on the names of God, Dr. Tony Evans discusses God as our Shepherd. He reminds us God is the Source, all the rest are
re-sources. For me, that means relationship with God is what fills me full to overflowing, my cup running over. And all the beautiful people He gives me for fellowship are above-and-beyond blessings. I no longer have to claw and scratch and demand to have my needs met. He created me with those needs and He fills them...first with Himself, then with His other resources.
So, yes, friends, there are burdens we can carry our whole lives, that bend us over in submission to pain and complaint. But if we see them for what they really are, idols we have exalted above the Lord, Himself, in our lives, we can cast them off and stand up straight, hands open to receive the blessings He so longs to give us.
: peace :