The Lord is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works (Ps 145:9)
One of the most humbling moments I've ever had came during a time as a new Christian when I worked in a word processing pool. My boss told me at my 6 month review that there were comments from others in the pool that I complained too much. I was mortified. Over the years, I have had a struggle to stop complaining.
Concentrating on God's goodness has been one of the most helpful things to my tendency to complain. I keep learning that in every difficult situation, God is always good. I was reminded of this last Sunday when I was talking to a friend at church. She has been dealing with a very serious health situation. I had not seen her for a while, and when I commented that she looked good and seemed to be in very good spirits, she said, "Well, look around; I could have it much worse." In the face of her own illness, she recognized that there are others in our congregation (and there are; many) who are dealing with much worse. She sees God's goodness. She counts God as good for providing improvement, for providing medical care. She was looking outside of her circumstance and toward God.
In the past, while complaining, I have had people suggest that I look for God's goodness. I have not always responded to that counsel in a good way. When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we want validation, and sometimes, we secretly enjoy feeling that we deserve to complain. There is definitely a time for allowing someone to express her frustration, but ultimately, we cannot stay there.
Complaining infects our thinking, taking our attention away from God to ourselves. We stop seeing God as good, but it is crucial to avoid that. God's goodness is why he shows mercy time after time whenever we sin. It is why he sustains us, why he sustains the world, why he delays the coming of Christ that others may come to know him. God's goodness is in the big things and the small things. If we have trouble seeing God as good, there are two things we can do: 1) read the Word of God daily, and 2) look around us. There are little signs of God's goodness everywhere.
Last week, I was struggling with a cold, and I complained. I grumbled about the timing. A stuffy head, runny nose and fatigue were not helpful for my crowded to-do list. One day, late in the afternoon, I sat outside and watched as a hummingbird hovered at my feeder. A harried squirrel realized there was a human and a Beagle on my deck and ran furiously at the sound of barking. I noticed that my maple tree is showing its colours among the top leaves. I caught the scent of someone burning leaves, and I heard the sounds of the kids two doors down from me playing outside. I had my cup of Yorkshire tea, comfortable on my Muskoka (or as the folks south of me say, Adirondack) chair, outside of a comfortable home, with a book on my lap for a class at seminary where I'm privileged to go; little things given by the hand of a good God.
The essential truth of God's goodness can shape our thinking in both the little things and the big things. It can bring us out of a funk or give us a strategy for avoiding grumbling and complaining. It may not solve our situation, but within it, we can see God's goodness. In these days when it seems like all around us see nothing but doom and gloom, we need to understand that God is good.