Complaining doesn’t speed it up…3 lessons learned from a crying baby.

I’d hate to know what my daycare neighbors think after lunch every day, when baby Jessica (not her real name) is screaming her head off. My youngest daycare baby is almost 18 months old, and she HATES getting cleaned up after eating. Every day it’s the same.

Today was spaghetti day—one of Jessica’s favorite meals. She insists on feeding herself, which is a good thing, since I’m always looking for ways to foster independence. Too bad said independence results in so much mess.

Cleaning her up is quite the ordeal, and today was no exception. I grabbed the box of baby wipes and headed for her high chair. She grinned happily at me until I held her hand and started removing a copious amount of spaghetti from it.

Of course, she screamed and tried to get her hand away. I quickly finished, then started on the other hand. She screamed again. Two hands down—now for the face. This is the part she REALLY hates. At times, she’ll even arch her back and try to launch out of the high chair.

Since I’ve had lots of practice (as in, I’ve done this a few thousand times in my daycare career), I soon had her cleaned up and tucked into bed with her blanket and binky. Mission accomplished once again.

And once again, as He often does, God taught me a lesson through a child. He impressed on my heart that, all too often, I am like little Jessica. Something comes along in my life that I don’t like—a frustrating day, a lingering trial—and I flail and scream against it.

In Scripture, God clearly condemns murmuring and complaining. As we read of Israel’s journey through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, what do we see them doing again and again?

Complaining! With nearly every step toward Canaan, they had a new complaint against God or Moses. There wasn’t enough food. There wasn’t enough water. When God provided food, they didn’t like it. (“Let’s go back to Egypt! Things were so much better there! Of course, there was the little issue of us being slaves, but besides that, life was awesome!”)

Much of Israel’s journey can be summed up in Numbers 11:1, “And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled…” Regardless of the many miracles God did to protect and provide for His people, they kept on complaining.

It’s easy to judge the Israelites, but I’m afraid I’m in the “complaining boat” more than I’d like to admit. I may not be screaming on the outside like baby Jessica, but I sure am hollering up a storm on the inside. So let me share a couple things that I learned from her today.

1. Complaining doesn’t remove me from the unpleasant situation I find myself in. Never once have I looked at Jessica and said to her, “I see you are expressing your obvious and amazingly loud displeasure at being washed up before bed. Here, let’s just put you into bed with spaghetti all over your face, hands, hair, ears…a little spaghetti sauce on your sheets won’t matter. And I’m sure mommy will love the condition you’re in when she arrives in about 5 hours.”

Just as it’s ludicrous to think I’d change my mind about what a baby needs based on her fussing, it’s just as crazy to think that my complaints are going to change God’s mind about what is best for me. He’s not going to look down from Heaven and say, “I see you are expressing your obvious and amazingly loud displeasure at the trial I’ve allowed in this season of your life. Let me just whisk that trouble away so you will never be challenged, you won’t grow, and you’ll never have to trust Me for strength.”

2. Complaining can make the trial or difficulty last longer. If Jessica would sit still and cease her constant squirming to get away from me, I could clean her up much faster. She’d be out of the high chair and into bed with her treasured blanket and binky in no time.

Could it be that if I would learn what God wants me to learn during a time of difficulty, He might bring it to an end more quickly? Now, I realize that if I cease to complain, it doesn’t mean God is automatically going to push the “stop” button on my trial. However, there are many examples in the Bible of God bringing victory to His children AFTER they had learned the lesson He was trying to teach them.

3. Even if having a good attitude doesn’t speed the difficulties and frustrations up, it makes them easier to bear. Of course the baby can’t understand this now, but if she would endure the washing ritual with a smile on her face, she’d experience a lot more peace and happiness in her life!

When I look back at difficult times I’ve faced, I recognize that letting myself spiral into complaining and “kicking” against the situation only brought more frustration. On the other hand, when I’ve faced the hard times with my chin up, a smile on my face, and trust in God, the trials were much easier to bear.

Unfortunately for us, we will have to experience frustrating days, troubles, and trials until the day we go to Heaven. But we have a choice when life throws spaghetti at us. We can scream and fuss our way through the hard times, or we can sit still with a smile on our face, refuse to complain, and let God teach us something.

Which way will you choose?

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