With the onset of a new year, we sit on the edge of another 12 months of possibilities, disappointments and discoveries. In essence, the new year is just another day but we tend to assign more weight to it than is due—which is why gyms will fill up the first two weeks of January, then return to the normal hum of fitness regulars. We expect each new year to be greater than years past.
Many of us in the Western world have every opportunity available to us known to man. Many millennials have the freedom to go wherever we want, make investments, start organizations, start families, work hard, save money, move, read for fun and anything else we can imagine.
And what do we do with this freedom? Complain.
The fact is, as a middle-class American, I will not go hungry. I have tried dozens of things since graduating high school and many of them failed. And I have certainly been a whiner at numerous points. Yet there was not one day I worried about going hungry or not having clean water to drink.
Rather than embrace new challenges, make daring attempts, or even just work hard, we stress, take to social media and complain about how hard it is to “adult.”
The irony here is that those who are truly in need and who are really struggling with life are those who are not complaining about “adulting.” The single mom working three jobs to provide for her kids or the family in India who splits one sack of rice for their weekly meals are the ones who deserve our sympathy and help more than the recent college grad who can’t decide what color Jetta to buy.
I don’t mean to build arguments on hypothetical situations or guilt you into sympathy. But I do want to call something out in today’s American Christianity.
Complaining as a Sin
When it comes to ranking our sins, we are good at averting our eyes from certain categories and focusing on others. One of the more overlooked areas of sin is complaint. Let us not forget that in Numbers 21, God allowed snakes to kill several thousand Israelites simply because they were complaining.
They weren’t worshipping other gods or sleeping around; they were complaining.
Yet today, we feel a liberty to complain without consequence. I think this comes from a notion of entitlement that Americans are raised with, and when things don’t go our way or we feel a bit of discomfort and stress, we have a right to complain about it.
Why is complaining such a big deal? Why would God let thousands of His people die simply for complaining? I think the short answer is because complaint is the opposite of gratitude. The height of anything a human can ever give to God is gratitude. We literally have nothing else to offer Him. Gratitude is the root of worship. It all begins with giving thanks for what God has given to us, from the big things to the small.
So when we complain, we are telling God that what He has given us is not good enough for us; that He is not good enough for us.
So it seems odd that people my age would complain about becoming adults. We now have the opportunity to build something with our own hands. We have the materials and the resources to really make differences in our communities, but rather than embrace this new season, many of us simply complain about its difficulties.
Adulting has its difficulties, but I think more than that, it has its promises. It is pregnant with opportunity and excitement. No longer are you bound by your parents’ curfew and rules. No longer does schoolwork consume the majority of your free time and limit your mobility. As an adult, you set your own bedtime and your own alarm clock; there isn’t anyone doing it for you.
To some, this lack of structure is intimidating, but with the right mindset, it can be an invitation to new adventures, whatever form they may take. Don’t let the hardships of this new season lead you to depression and complaint. Instead, embrace it. Help the needy. Try something new and fail at it. Then fail a few more times. Create new things and start something that matters.
And if gratitude is the opposite of complaint, maybe that’s our starting point.