There are things I have forgotten about the days just prior to our wedding. Of course, that is understandable since it has been more than 37 years since that happy occasion. However, there is one small incident that I don’t believe I will ever forget. May I explain, and perhaps it will become evident why pondering it still makes me cringe just a bit. Several family members had come to Arkansas to celebrate and enjoy our up-coming wedding. My husband and I had lived there for a few years. My soon to be mother-in-law, in an attempt to be helpful, graciously made a pot of coffee. That’s when I heard it. One of the family members from my side of the family asked “who made that horrible coffee”. Oh my, I heard those words which were not spoken in a quiet voice. My hands are perspiring even now, as I write this. I don’t know if my mother-in-law heard the comment, but I know how nervous I became at the thought of hurt feelings. Complaining and grumbling can spread like Creeping Jenny in the rose bed, and it can bring about the same kind of nasty twisting and tangling of events too. The careless remark was overheard by a few of our guests, but thankfully, no apparent damage was done. Complaining. It brings about no good fruit. No wonder we are admonished to do all that we do, without that particular “extra-curricular activity”, Philippians 2:14.
I love the Lord’s reminders because they often give us more than simply what we shouldn’t do. In this case, Philippians 2:15, the Lord adds, through the Apostle Paul how an uncomplaining life stands out in contrast to what is the norm all around us. We have the opportunity to shine like stars. Think about our words of thankfulness or at least non-complaining speech and how lovely it appears, like the beauty of the sparkle of stars in an inky black sky. Let’s think for a moment about Jesus’ speech. He didn’t complain. Though He was fully God, Jesus set aside the use of His divine attributes and experienced all that we do, Philippians 2:5-8. Jesus left the wonder and glory of heaven, John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 8:9, never complaining, though many of His own people didn’t receive or understand the incredible gift He was holding out to them, John 1:9-11. Imagine leaving the perfection of His relationship with the Trinity and the Glory He had always experienced, John 17:5, for the company of those who often argued over who was the greatest, Luke 22:24-27. What an example we have in Jesus’ life, and how different His words were than those He came to save.
Let’s go back to the coffee complaint. What could have replaced the grumbling?
It was surely true that my future mother-in-law’s coffee was very strong. However, instead of a criticism, maybe a word of thanks could have been offered. Perhaps something like. It was really nice of someone to make coffee so we didn’t have to think about it.
Saying nothing. We have all heard it. If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all. The scriptures remind us to say what will build up those who hear, Ephesians 4:29. Maybe when nothing encouraging comes to mind? At those times, being silent would be best.
Maybe when it was time to make another pot of coffee, an offer of help could be given. No need to be pushy about it. Perhaps the simple offer to lend a hand, in lieu of a complaint.
This goes one step farther than merely being silent. The coffee might discretely be poured out with a prayer for the person who fixed it. I’m not talking about prayer for her to get better at coffee making. Perhaps, the simple request that God bless the one who did the task, asking His care over her.
Lord, Help us to be aware of our propensity to complain. Help us to stop before we do it, allowing Your attitudes to shine through us instead.