Does complaining rob us of joy? The easy answer seems to be yes. For when we fall into a pattern of complaining, it can quickly become interior as well as exterior.
Often I may find myself comparing my life to others, and bemoaning my own situation. I forget that God has called me to this specific time and place, and as God’s Will is perfect, then this is the perfect place for me.
Whether I am complaining about my present state, insofar as I live my life waiting for the next best thing to happen, I am calling into question the perfect timing of the Will of God. We may be waiting for a new car, new house, new job, another child… but we are seeking a happiness somewhere down the road that ultimately ends in heaven.
Restless for More Joy
We will not be satisfied no matter what tomorrow brings, for God has planted the eternal desire in our hearts so that we are restless here on earth. This truth should not cause us to despair and give up hope for a joyful life. Rather, the knowledge that we are made for something eternal should bring us true hope in the midst of our fears and disappointments in daily living.
Since we know through our faith that our desires cannot exceed the end for which they are created, then we know that we can rightly discern a deeper meaning behind all our desires for joy and leisure. In this way, we know that we are not just selfish in our desires, but that they are made for a fulfillment and perfection beyond our imagination.
Here our desires are tainted with concupiscence, but one day they will be perfect. Surely it is a depressing habit to spend so much time waiting on fun and a “better” life, to the point of missing out on the joy of the present moment. If instead of complaining, we live our lives in relation to the end, considering how this time and place leads us closer to eternity, then every moment is as important as the next.
At times we truly need to share our burdens with a friend or mentor. Here it is good to judge our actions by their fruits: does some good end come from my discussing my trials with another person? Am I blowing off steam so that I can continue the rest of my day with peace, or does talking and thinking about my situation only serve to deeper embed in my mind the unique difficulty of my life?
On a particularly difficult day, do I soothe my interior pride by either making excuses for myself based off of my situation, or by consoling myself that I can’t possibly be expected to persevere despite the struggles which I face? Who of us would say that we find our daily lives comfortable or easy, or that we have it better than the next?
A true friend and confidant will help us discern the deeper truth behind the struggles we face, and will encourage us to persevere. They will also remind us that comparisons often distract us from the blessings right in front of us. By seeking wise and virtuous friends and advisors who will share truthfully their experience and advice, we are strengthened to continue in our own journey.
This causes me to reflect: do I try to be a friend, a sister, a daughter, who will offer encouragement and words of love in times of need, instead of a fellow gossiper who enjoys despairing in and criticizing the Will of God?
When to Keep Silent
When we complain against God in our hearts, we would do well to remember the fact that we are causing Him real pain.
Sometimes it is better to bow our heads and stifle our pride when we want to be heard and consoled by other people, so as not to pain God with our words of ingratitude or anger. Christ yearns to share in our pain, but when we cry out to Him, do we do so in true humility and trust, or do we scoff at His Will and beg for more comfort and control?
In learning to practice the virtue of prudence, we can begin to better discern in which moments we should bare our souls and our struggles with another person, as well as recognize the moments when we should guard our hearts and offer the pain to Christ alone.
Both daily prayer and recourse to the grace of the sacraments will aid us in our prudent discernment, and the Holy Spirit will guide us to the person or place which will best grant us aid on our road to heaven.
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