I heard my wife say, “You must be feeling better.” “Why?” I asked. Her response, “Because you are complaining.”
I had been out of work for weeks.
I was sick, and I never get sick. However, this little episode of my life was the result of me working too hard, too many hours, with not much sleep—so much so that my body ground to halt. (For about six weeks.)
I slept—a lot. There were days I didn’t even remember. As I slowly returned to health, I began returning to my natural state. How could my wife tell I was returning to my natural state? I began grumbling.
Ouch! That is not a very complimentary thing to say to someone, especially when they’re ill. However, it was the truth.
I don’t know about you; maybe you have a positive disposition, but I find that the tone of the world around me is one of complaint, and I easily adopt it. We, as people who live in the developed world, have pretty high expectations of just how our day, and our lives, should go. And when they don’t, we complain.
Take for example ordering food, even coffee, nowadays. People have some high expectations about how it is to be prepared. And when those expectations are not met, and not met quickly—what happens?
I’m not suggesting we accept mediocrity. I’m asking, “What situations are leading me to complain?”
Pause for a moment and ask yourself: “When is it that I’m most likely to complain and grumble?”
I can tell you my answer. It is when I am working really hard at something, and the outcome doesn’t turn out the way I want.
I know there are other times that I complain, but the above scenario is commonplace in my life.
Compare that to what we read today, and ask two questions about Paul’s situation. First question: “Has he been working hard?” Answer: “Yes!” Second question: “Is it turning out the way he wants?” Answer: “He’s in jail!!”
If it were me in that situation, I might be complaining—and complaining to God.
Yet, this correspondence has none of that. It is a letter that communicates joy for life and confidence in Jesus.
And I wonder why. Why isn’t Paul complaining? I think the text reveals two reasons. First, he is thankful. That has come through loud and clear. Second, he has realistic expectations. It isn’t that he is a superman from another world; rather, he understands his/our world.
He notes that living on earth is to live among twisted people. I know that sounds negative, but he is simply calling out the truth. The world, our lives, are not full of puppy dogs and butterflies. Our lives are full of people turned away from God, and people turned towards God. People turned away from God are living for themselves, and that creates a selfish world. People turned towards God are still struggling to live for Him and not for themselves…and that creates all sorts of issues.
The point is not to be depressed. The point is to have realistic expectations—and to look beyond this world, with a Biblical view to how our lives have an eternal perspective. A little later in this letter, Paul will press more into this idea of an eternal perspective, but for now I am left looking in the mirror, and asking…