Grumble: to complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way. (Google)
My Thursday night Bible study group has been going through the book of Philippians with the help of Karen Ehman’s book, What Matters Most. Everything was fine and dandy, until we got to Philippians chapter 2, and then she issued a challenge: Do not grumble for seven days. I’m gonna be honest. I grumbled about the not grumbling. I put down my pen. How can we be expected to do that? Do you know the people I come in contact with every day? Have you seen me trying to get my kids ready in the morning? Or in bed at night, for that matter? And don’t get me started on the traffic!
I listened. I doodled a big number seven in my book, and I penned out “No grumbling challenge”. I paraphrased Philippians 2:14-15, which says, “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world”.
Well…when you put it that way…
I decided I’d do it, but I didn’t want anyone to expect that I would succeed. I didn’t tell anyone that I was participating so I wouldn’t be obvious if I failed. And if I needed to grumble, I didn’t want to be held accountable.
Friday came, and I realized it wasn’t so bad! I even made it through the weekend. By Sunday, I checked in with my fellow non-grumblers, and I commented that it had been a lot easier than I thought it would be. My well-meaning friend, who happens to be a guy, said “You know if you think it, it’s just as bad right?” Being someone who doesn’t grumble, I smiled and assured him I was doing just fine. One step at a time.
Then came the most Mondayest Monday there ever was. A situation that a lot of people are unhappy with tends to bring about a group grumble. And it’s really hard not to participate. You tend to hear a plethora of “AND…”, “One more thing!”, “Did you think about…” We add fuel to the fire. More specifically, I added fuel to the fire.
I confessed to my coworker that I was miserably failing at my no grumbling challenge. Her response surprised me. She said “You know, I noticed you seemed so much more refreshed the past few days. That must be it.”
My non-grumbling was noticed. It had changed my outward appearance. I’m glad, but I’m now also hyperaware of how much grumbling is weighing me down.
Philippians 2:5 tells us to “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus”.
I grumble about minor inconveniences: It took me a long time to get to work. I didn’t like what was for dinner (The dinner I didn’t have to make, mind you). I’m tired of wearing the same few dresses to church every Sunday. I felt left out. Someone was rude. Somebody call a waaaaambulance, already!
If I’m adopting the same attitude as Christ, I have to remember that He was betrayed, mocked, ignored, falsely accused, beaten, tortured, and ultimately killed, yet He never once complained. He brought His heaviness to God, asking Him to take away the suffering (see Mark 14:36), but He didn’t grumble, even though anyone would have understood if He did.
Even though I didn’t manage to make it a whole week without grumbling, I didn’t let my failure stop me from trying. I noticed I felt less angry throughout the week. I tried to be more proactive with things I was frustrated about. I found myself more sad about certain things, letting myself feel the actual emotion instead of hiding it in anger. I was more thankful.
I knew pretending to be Pollyanna and playing the Glad Game wouldn’t truly fix any situation, but bringing my frustrations to God and tweaking my attitude certainly could mold my heart to look a little more like His.
Even when I’m complaining with humor, trying to make a bad situation better, I’m still stirring the pot. I’m still adding to the negativity. It’s time to clean house and pick up a better habit.
Joy is a major theme in Philippians. It’s funny because we were all on board with being more joyful and spreading joy to others; however, when the author started outlining ways to become more joyful, like not complaining, I got all up in arms. Choosing joy isn’t easy; choosing to be grateful instead of grumbling truly is a challenge. But it’s one I’m willing to take, and you may close your app or shut your laptop at this point, but I’m inviting you to the challenge this week too. (C’mon, you knew it was coming). Write yourself a big seven- a reminder. Jot out Philippians 2:14 and tape it to your mirror. Write that verse on your heart. Do everything with out grumbling and arguing. Peel back the layers of your heart and see a more Christ-like attitude just waiting to come out.
I’m not going to end my challenge. I don’t need to word vomit a bunch of unhappy expressions. I’m not going to succeed every day, but I’m going to try, and I’m going to hope that it’s reflected to others.