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What is Wrong with a Good Grumble?

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It is not uncommon to have a “good” grumble, or a “good” whinge. We even feel better at times when we are able to vent our frustrations about that driver in front of us, or because things seem unfair, or because people don’t act in the way we believe that they should. We easily forget about the things that have gone right, and tend to fixate on the things that are wrong. We don’t like getting “no” for an answer, when we believe the answer should be “yes”. We all do it from time to time, but it is a very easy pattern to get into, and not a very healthy one. It is almost impossible to live a day without hearing a complaint, murmur, or grumble about anything and everything. John Piper writes, “Do all things without grumbling. Why? You have a sovereign God who is on your side, who works everything together for your good.”

Grumbling is the sound that the children of Israel made when they were hungry, thirsty, tired, and fearful. Whenever they felt any discomfort, they grumbled about their circumstances and the leadership of Moses. They murmured among themselves and forgot all that God had done for them. As Christians we’re not so very different from the Israelites. When it’s cold we complain, when it’s hot we complain. We complain about the government, the Church, our leaders, our families, our parents and many other things. We easily forget to be thankful and content with what God has given us. Learning to be content is a much underrated virtue. God is pleased when our hearts are content and thankful in every situation.

Having said this, there is always room for presenting questions and inquire about a decision we have made. However, to grumble in the background serves no useful purpose. At this College, we encourage and desire feedback and will endeavour to explain why we make the decisions that we do. This enables us to improve and make good changes. We try never to have a defensive attitude, but rather to measure all our processes and decisions against the principles we believe come from God’s word. I often look at things in terms of the fruit that it generates, and use the principle of “purpose over preference” as a guiding one. Many times this has led us to review our decisions and improve on them. But once we have made our case, and received our answer, it is time to accept the umpire’s call (even to agree to differ) and move on.

A problem with grumbling and complaining is that it often fails to give due honour. We need to pray for our leaders and honour them, and if we can’t honour the person, we can honour the position. Leadership involves making the difficult call, and it isn’t always going to be the most popular call or the one we agree with. In fact, leaders who court popularity and follow the crowd, don’t usually change things for the better. The crowd is a very poor judge of what is best. The crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, was also the crowd which later cried “Crucify him!”

All of us have various authorities in our lives to which we need to exercise loyalty and compliance. We all have leaders under whom we work and to whom we have obligations. Part of being a disciple is making ourselves accountable to this kind of leadership. What do we gain by grumbling and complaining except unhappiness, cynicism and negativity? It is interesting to ask what kind of fruit this generates. It seems to me that it is nothing like the fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t lead us to an attitude of thankfulness or of taking responsibility or of building one another up, but seems more directed to finding someone to take the blame. The truth is that we all do our best. But even when doing our best, we all make mistakes and can do better. That is why grace, honour, thankfulness and forgiveness should characterize our behaviour towards each other. This helps our testimony to “shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life”. This is attractive, and demonstrates the love that we are called to have to one another.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without complaining or arguing (sometimes translated as grumbling or disputing) so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”

As a Christian College, it is important that we all reflect the heartbeat of the school. At Rehoboth, it is our heart to grow, love and nurture the children and families that God brings into this community. We want everyone to see a visible outworking of this heart as we walk life together. In the way that we speak about the school, the leadership, the church, the parents, the teachers, the students, the programs and the vision of the school, we want to be excited as we share and experience what God has done and what he is doing on a daily basis. Our God is mighty to save, and it is a privilege of being able to be a part of his community. This is something that we should never take for granted. It all comes down to what we choose to focus on.

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