What complaining reveals about the believer’s state of heart


I recently found myself complaining a lot to God, because I expected certain things to go a certain way and he was seemingly not into that idea. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my attitude because I believe in being open to the Lord about my feelings.

Most of the time, I talk to the Lord as I would talk to someone seated across from me – very informal. And knowing that he loves and cares for me, some of my best quiet moments with him are when I tell him exactly how I feel and think about whatever situation. There’s so much relief when you pour out your heart to the Lord like that, instead of behaving ‘religious’ before God, and never really talking to him from the heart.

In this post I made a distinction between pouring out your heart to God and complaining. While the former is done in faith, the latter is done in anger and resentment.

What happened these days didn’t quite strike me early enough that I was complaining instead of pouring out my heart to the Lord. I thought I was just being honest with him. I wasn’t going to stifle my feelings and refuse my thoughts. So I just let him know how I felt and thought!

It’s the result that made me realize that what I was doing was not right. A sincere pouring out of the heart to God is done in faith, with the view of God as the loving caring Father. This results in emotional relief – peace – even if your physical situation remains the same.

Complaining is a fruit of discouragement, anger and resentment, and the result is more discouragement. After complaining and welcoming more discouragement, it just spoils the atmosphere and you can no longer truly enjoy quiet time with the Lord.

In his word, the Lord cautions against complaining and murmuring. 1 Corinthians 10:10 makes reference to the Israelites’ complaining and grumbling attitude in the wilderness and how that attitude cost many of them their lives. It did finally cost the entire population that left Egypt, save for Caleb and Joshua, entry into the Promised Land.

And if Christians are called upon to look at that example and learn not to complain, it is important to take the command seriously. It says clearly and loudly that God hates complaining and grumbling. Why?

It’s about the heart attitude from which complaining comes.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Revised Edition) defines Murmuring as the outward expression of deep inward discontent and rejection of one’s lot. That sounds pretty heavy but it is absolutely true.

As God’s follower, someone seeking to live for God alone, when you complain about what God is doing in your life, there’s something you are communicating to him that you may not even mean it verbally. You may not even realize what you are doing; you would be shocked if God showed you your heart condition that grieves him.

Matthew 12:34

…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

If wasn’t just the fact that the Israelites complained verbally; it wasn’t just their little grumbling groups and conspiracies against Moses that got the Lord annoyed. It was the heart attitude that gave birth to the physical expression. Which is what the believer needs to consider when taking the command in 1 Corinthians 10:10. That verse isn’t only calling for a cessation of words but a change in heart attitude towards the situation at hand.

Whether discontent is verbally expressed or not, the result of complaining is always there – discouragement, despair or actions that are contrary to what the Lord would want of you.

Complaining questions the faithfulness and wisdom of God. He’s not truly trustworthy. He’s not doing things the way you think he should be doing. If given the reins you would do a better job.

No one wants to tell God that, but that’s what complaining says.

Questioning God’s faithfulness

When they left Egypt triumphantly, after having experienced God’s spectacular power in the plagues that ravaged Egypt while sparing them, one would think the Israelites should have had no problem believing God when they found themselves caught between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian Army. God had unmistakably proven to them that he was with them and that he was more than enough for every situation. He had promised to bring them out of the land of bondage to a land flowing with milk and honey. The desert was not a land flowing with milk and honey. It was the route to that land. They should have therefore eagerly looked forward to the next miracle with no fear.

But they panicked and complained. They actually saw themselves being killed. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die in the wilderness. They completely forgot what God had done in order to bring them out. They didn’t believe he was able to save them there. At the bottom line, they didn’t believe he was faithful to his word to bring them to a land of their own, the land flowing with milk and honey.

When you follow God, things will not always going to be rosy. In fact, expect hardship when you step out with God. This message is hard to receive in our Christian culture today where aversion to adversity is rife. I have seen some of those religious skits where the message is basically saying, ‘if you want the affluent life your neighbor is living, then become a Christian like him’. That gospel appeals only to the flesh and is the reason for so much discontent in the lives of some professing Christians, which makes them vulnerable to the schemes of con artists disguised as men of God, who rip them off of their hard-earned money in exchange for promises of effortless prosperity.

Adversity is never a sign of God’s inability to deliver and to save. It is never a sign that he has stopped being faithful; that he made a promise which he is unable to deliver.

Complaining therefore questions God’s faithfulness. It says he’s not able to fulfill his promises. It forgets the victories of the past.

Look at the Lord’s disciples in the midst of the storm while he was asleep. Instead of calling on him for help, they complained and accused him of not caring. When he got up and calmed the storm, he rebuked them by asking, ‘how is it you have no faith?’

The reason for their complaint and cries was because of a lack of faith. That is what makes complaining detestable to the Lord. It is a sign of unbelief.

Questioning God’s wisdom

Even if I’m being killed, I will shout it loud and clear: God is faithful; he never fails, he never disappoints. Never. I know that I know that I know, God IS faithful. But what about his wisdom and the way he chooses to prove his faithfulness?

Well, not verbally expressed, but complaining and being discontented with the way God does things says exactly that: you don’t believe his wisdom is right. And beneath your discontentment lies impatience. You know God is faithful, and he has to demonstrate that faithfulness, NOW, or else, you’ll doubt his word.

How familiar that sounds!

Questioning God’s wisdom could also be in the sense of not seeing his instructions as logical. That’s what finally stopped the Israelites who left Egypt from entering the Promised Land. How could God expect them to face the dreadful giants? The better option was to choose a leader and return to Egypt!

How in our complaining state, thinking we are more rational than God, we take decisions that only result in our hurt!

No matter what way we look at it, complaining grieves God. He hates it.

Complaining is a sin. It reveals the state of a heart that is not stayed upon God; a heart that doesn’t trust him; a heart that questions his faithfulness and wisdom. A heart that thinks it knows better than God.

Situations that provoke complaining are always there. Giving into the temptation is our choice. Life above complaining may be hard but it’s possible. The possibility is the reason why God commands us to learn from the Israelites’ example.

How to stop complaining

  • Make a decision to keep away from complaining, no matter the situation
  • Stay your mind on the Lord by meditating on his person, his might and his goodness
  • Seek his wisdom when you are confused or discouraged
  • Remind yourself of his faithfulness in the past.
  • Do what his word says to do. Refuse the negative feelings and the urge to speak them.

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