Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
This is what I want. To shine as a light in the midst of a dark and lonely world.
I want people to see this in me. But do they?
If I’m being honest, probably not. I fall short in so many ways. I selfishly, arrogantly choose myself and this world over others, over the eternal things, over Jesus on an embarrassingly, shamefully, constant basis.
On Monday, I decided to take the 14-day challenge presented by Priyanka in her post, “Pour Out the Whine.” I got to work, found out I only had two patients, and thought it was going to be a fairly calm day. Wrong. I should have known better – there are rarely any “calm days” on a Leukemia unit. As the day got busier and busier, and as the team wrote more and more orders, it got harder and harder to resist the urge to complain. I wanted to be loud and vocal and open about just how busy I was. Busyness. What a silly thing to get worked up about, right? It’s the nature of the job. I should know by now to just accept it, work through it, clock out, and go home. As I resolved to be faithful in this “no complaining” challenge, others around me started to notice. Mind you, this is all in a single day, one 12-hour shift. By noon, all four of the other RNs working with me had asked, “Reba (my work name), are you okay? You’re so quiet. Is everything okay?”
Please do, “aww” at my sweet coworkers for their sincere care for me – I surely did. But their words kind of stung a little too. Don’t get me wrong – I was ever so thankful for their concern! I wasn’t upset or bitter or angry at them in the least bit, but I was really disappointed in myself.
Here’s how my brain processed it: My quietness made them wonder if everything was okay. But my quietness was only the direct result of me trying to NOT fail the 14-day challenge on Day 1 itself. So where did that leave me? It left me wondering what on earth I could be filling up the silence with on a daily basis at work – and elsewhere, for that matter! Had I been filling the ears of my coworkers with nothing but complaints during our long shifts together? Surely this couldn’t be the case!
Ah, but it was. Maybe not to the severe extent I had felt in my heart. But clearly, it was significant. Yes, I filled up the silence with good things too: asking them about their kids, encouraging them about graduate school, sharing an occasional Jesus-related comment, laughing with them about things only nurses would find amusing. But all that good doesn’t negate or undo the bad.
Complaining about busyness, difficult patients, difficult families, difficult doctors. What on earth was I thinking! This world is FULL of difficult things – and none of these would even make the list of “Hardest Things to Endure in Life!” Why, why, why was I complaining about what I already knew to be true, about what I should already expect in this life – especially as a believer (John 16:33)?
Life will always be difficult and busy and filled with unexpected situations of all shapes, sizes, and colors. But the situations of this life should never dictate the way I live. The Cross alone has that authority and I should daily, hourly live in surrender, in response, in likeness to Christ.
When I know the Lord, how can I complain about anything? I can’t. It would just be so… illogical and unreasonable. I mean, what cause have I to complain when I know the Creator Himself? What legitimate cause? Yet here I am, complaining. Day in and day out. About anything and everything under the sun. Am I really all that different from the Israelites? I’m quick to judge the Israelites for their arrogance and lack of gratitude. But I have been slow to recognize the plank in my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
Knowing Jesus is everything. It’s love, acceptance, joy, peace, fulfillment, satisfaction, purpose, reward, providence, hope, and so much more. If I have everything, then I am in need of nothing. And if I am in need of nothing, I have absolutely no reason to complain. Complaining is what we do when we are discontent and dissatisfied. Because I know Jesus, I am neither discontent nor dissatisfied. I have all that I need and more in Him – and yes, that includes the struggles. I need those too – more, even (James 1:2-4). And in Him, I will overcome every struggle for the glory of His name and for my ultimate good (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:28). That’s His promise to me.
So now what? I’ve diagnosed the problem and put it in perspective. How should I proceed? If you’re doing the challenge, you know as well as I do, that not complaining is incredibly hard. This challenge has made me realize how ugly and selfish my heart really is. So do I sit around and whine about how much I fall short and how disgusting my heart can be? No. Because that would be complaining about complaining, which is just more complaining! No. Instead, when a complaint comes to mind, I will take that thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I will lay down my complaint and pick up a blessing, a joy, a reason to be thankful. Why? Because these are always in great supply.
Oh, the wonders of His mercy!
Oh, what peace we found!
In the heart of the Father
There is love, He loves us!