“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 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, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Phil 2:14-16)
I have been thinking about this since Pastor Mark focused on it in his sermon yesterday (The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Temptation). I’ve come to this understanding that for all my life I have not thought grumbling and questioning to be a sin. Rather, it has been a right. If things aren’t going right, I have every good reason to complain about it. Of course, when other people whine it drives me nuts. But that doesn’t seem to change my own behavior. Rather, my pride swells and I walk merrily on in blindness.
I look back on times in my life when I was really jazzed about what God was doing and it never really had much to do with my circumstances. It was so much more about the fact that I spent less time questioning God and His doings and more time being thankful for it all. Then, when the hard stuff came, it was easier to fall into “Thank you, Lord” instead of “I hate you, Lord” (not to say I haven’t slid into the latter!).
Side note: I must point out (as Mark did in the sermon) that questioning something or someone isn’t always a bad thing. Authentic faith must spring forth from asking questions, being curious, desiring to understand and know more. But when that questioning serves selfish purposes–to justify bad behavior, to accuse or slander someone, to cause unnecessary dissension, to contribute to personal glory–then it is sin. And that is the kind of questioning I am concerned with right now.
I’m trying to regain a sense of thankfulness once again, one that is less and less filled with grumbling and questioning. I say I have to regain it, which implies that I lost it, which indeed I did.
You would think that meeting the person you’re going to marry, getting engaged and being swept up in the idea of a wonderful wedding would be more than enough reason to express thanks. Sadly, this was not the case for me. I wasted a lot of time in our courtship and engagement annoyed and upset, worrying about what I wanted, my “rights”, my fears, my my my. Does anyone else ever get sick of themselves?
I also spent a lot of time questioning God: “Why this man? He’s not this or that. He doesn’t like this and I do. He does this thing and it annoys me. He’s not what I imagined. He makes me look bad. He’s too goofy.” This led to questioning God Himself: “Are you sure you know what you’re doing God? I’m not sure if you really are good. I’m not sure if I can trust you.” It also led to a lot of contempt towards God and Jason.
Ouch. It’s embarrassing to share that sin. Those of you who know Jason can attest to the fact that he is a wonderful man and that I am a blessed wife. Not perfect, but wonderful nonetheless. In my clarity, I see this along with you and am overjoyed. Every day I trek along, slowly moving out of this wickedness.
God began working on this in me when my grumbling and questioning was at its worst, when I very seriously considered calling the wedding off during our engagement. Jason kept pushing my fear button, my anger button, and the occasional confusion button. I ran to Sally and said (for the umpteenth time) “Maybe this isn’t what God wants.”
She said to me, “Elisabeth, when was the last time you were thankful for something God did in your life?” At the time I vaguely acknowledged the question. But then the Lord demanded an answer from me when he brought me to these verses:
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance that is in them, due to hardness of heart.“ (Eph. 4:17-18)
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21)
At the time, I realized that my unthankfulness was blinding me. My thinking was futile, a waste of time and energy. I couldn’t see the good that God was doing and that made walking in his will a burden instead of a joy. I saw only perceived bad instead of incredible good. Now that I’m thinking about Phil. 2:14 I’m seeing that my ungratefulness didn’t come out nowhere. It went like this: Grumbling and questioning –> unthankfulness –> doing stupid things (like calling off a wedding to the wonderful Mr. Jason Haggard).
Oh, the layers and layers of folly that I don’t realize are within me! You think you understand your sinfulness and then God pulls the curtain back a little more. I am thankful that God brought me to conviction through Scripture, through Sally, through Jason and other good friends. I am glad He didn’t allow my sin to ruin the covenant relationship I’m now in with Jason.
I’m sure I could find reasons to grumble now, but there are far more reasons to rejoice in and enjoy my husband than to be frustrated. So when my buttons do get pushed, I am finding that I can be thankful for that. I am glad my sin is exposed so I can change. I can be thankful that Jason’s sin helps me learn how to give grace.
I’m also realizing, after a weekend of thinking about and praying for Christian’s family and his wife, Liz, that God doesn’t guarantee that the end is far off. Every day I wake up next to this man is a great gift (whether the day results in challenges or not). That sobers me to tears of thankfulness to Jesus.
May Jason and especially Jesus be proud of me at the day of Christ, not believing they have labored in vain in the work they have done in my sanctification.
Imagine all that–an absolute miracle of God.