I have learned from many a personal experience, that complaining never amounts to anything – except more complaining. Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,”…. yet unfortunately, this is a challenge I struggle with.
It is much easier to whine and grumble, than to take action to make change happen, especially when problems seem looming or overwhelming or out of our control. Or maybe we have just gradually developed a chronic habit of complaining, no matter what the issue is.
When I think about changing our habits and attitudes, I am reminded of Luke 11:9 which says,”So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Before I really began to spend time reading scripture and trying to understand God’s Word, I used to think that this verse implied that we could ask for things. “Cool!” “I’ll ask for a new wardrobe, a perfect marriage, problem-free kids, and an unlimited amount of cash. ” ( just kidding – although those things would be nice!)
But the true meaning of this verse, is to encourage us to pray, with the motivation coming from knowing that God hears us, and that He will answer. It informs us that there are advantages to praying, because when we pray, God moves – but always in ways that are in agreement with His will.
I seem to have several storms in my life right now. Some have been growing over time, and others have raged in unexpectedly. I desperately wish some circumstances were different, and I do not yet understand how God could bring glory out of them. Yet, what I do know, is that they compel me to pray.
A couple months ago, I prayed for something that I had never prayed for before. I prayed for deliverance from a certain situation, and when God answered that prayer, I was shaken to the core and moved to tears.
It became crystal clear that God had not only heard my prayer, but acted on it. To fully grasp the understanding that the One and Only God heard my prayer, and acted upon it, shook me with such great humility that it made me feel weak in the knees. There was no other way to explain what had happened – except God.
It was a situation that had been concerning me for years, and changed dramatically, just a few weeks after finally fully surrendering that problem to God.
Although He did not answer my prayer in the way I would have chosen, I knew that God had moved in my situation, on my behalf, and I was in awe.
I asked. And I had received. I sought out God’s will, and intervention for change, and He showed up. I had knocked, and God opened the door.
You see, I had spent a lot of time, and I mean A LOT of time, complaining about this storm, and to be honest, had begun to feel a little irritated and frustrated that God was not paying attention to all of my whining.
I now see, that God could not take action in the midst of my whining and complaining, always trying to tell Him how I wanted Him to fix this problem. But He could take action in the midst of my honest, heartfelt prayers, when I handed the problem over to Him and trusted in His ways, no matter what they might be.
Our prayers are like knocks on the door of heaven, and when we knock with hearts desperate for Him, God opens the door, and can then begin to carry out His promises in our lives.
The promise of hope during circumstances that seem hopeless.
The promise of the ability to hang onto our faith, when it seems impossible.
The promise of comfort, as we seek to understand why.
The promise of peace that surpasses all understanding, until we do.
The promise of answered prayers – in His time, in His ways, with His sovereign knowledge.
The promise of knowing that in His time, all things will somehow bring Him glory.
One example I think of when considering today’s challenge, is found in Matthew 14. Remember, when Peter was sitting on a fragile boat in the middle of an ocean? Torrential rains beating down on his face; waves beating the boat into shreds; lightning and thunder booming from every direction?
Although he feared for his life, when Peter realized that Jesus was near, he stopped complaining and had faith. He believed that positive changes would take place within the storm, even though he had no personal power to make that happen.
Jesus summoned Peter to walk on the water, and Peter obeyed, looking straight into the eyes of Jesus.
But then – he got scared; his faith wavered; his human rationale took over; and he began staring at the black clouds above him and the deep waters below him.
He took his focus off of Jesus, and focused on the problems around him instead. He began panicking and complaining and saying “Lord, save me!”, as his fears and complaints took precedence over his faith.
Jesus’s heart sank because of Peters lack of faith, but yet He still rescued him, calmed the storm, and changed the situation – which changed Peter’s heart as well.
First – God changed the storm, then He changed Peter. But He could have done it the other way around, if He had chosen to.
Faith is believing that God hears our prayers, and understanding that He cannot act on complaints alone. When we seek His intervention, and knock on heaven’s door, we are tapping into a power that we cannot even fathom.
God may change our circumstances through our faith, or He may choose to change our faith through our circumstances.
The choice is His, yet the journey is ours. We can spend it complaining, or we can spend it praying, but knowing that supernatural change can only come about when we knock.
Day Five Challenge Activity: Pray for God’s intervention to make change happen, instead of merely complaining.
To begin this challenge, develop a mock goal setting form for the changes you want to see occur.
To create this goal setting form, take a few minutes to jot down the current problems or ‘storms’ that are raging in your life right now. Then, draw four columns on a piece of paper.
In the 1st column, write down all the things that you wish were different in your life, or situations that you wish would change.
In the 2nd column, write why you want that certain aspect of your life to be different, or how you feel you would be happier if that situation or circumstance changed or improved.
In the 3rd column, write down how you would like to see the situation change, or what your best case scenario for change would be.
And in the 4th column, write down what you can begin doing, if anything, to start making some positive changes about the problem(s) or situation(s) that you wrote down in column one.
If you are able to brainstorm some solutions to implement or induce change about a situation in your life, then stop complaining about them, and start working towards making change happen!
But if you recognize that some of your problems are completely out of your control, then pray with all your heart for God to begin working in those situations. Turn those situations completely over to God, and let it go. Surrender it to the cross, and entrust its’ outcome to God, in whatever way He deems best.
Then keep your spiritual eyes open, so that when He does work, you know it is Him. It may take time to see answers to your prayers, but it will be in His time, which we know will be perfect.
Sometimes putting things in writing helps me to be able to see things clearer, which enables me to think more rationally about what actions I can take to meet my goals.
This simple process also helps me to recognize when I have been stressing, worrying and complaining about things of which I ultimately have no power to change, thus reminding me to lay those burdens at Gods feet – and open the door for Him to work.
Some changes require a little work on our part, but other changes require a lot of prayer from our heart. Seek God’s wisdom to know the difference.
Now – most importantly – take time to pray over your list. Not just today, but every day, trusting that God hears your prayers, and believing in the promise we have been given in Luke 11:9.