The bible seems to have a something to say about “grumbling”. Have you ever noticed that? What’s the deal with grumbling? What IS grumbling, anyway? I was curious, so I spent a little time digging into it. My writing today is inspired by James:
Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:9-11 NIV
From this passage out of James, it seems clear that grumbling is something we do against others. It involves judging others. (While our Judge is at the door!) Grumbling also seems to be something the opposite of patience and perseverance.
If anyone had a legitimate opportunity to grumble it was Job, who was afflicted though he was a man who was considered blameless, full of integrity and pure in his desire to worship God. When he was afflicted, his wife urged him to grumble against the Lord. His wife said to him,
“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Job 2:9-10 NIV
Thus, grumbling is something we do against God also. Grumbling is something we encourage each other to do at times, perhaps, because “misery loves company”. Job was goaded by his wife to grumble against God, but he refused. Job is held up by James as one who persevered patiently in difficult circumstances, without grumbling.
The word translated “grumbling” (in the NIV) in James 5:9 is the Greek word, στενάζω (stenazó), which means literally “to groan (within oneself)”. It can be used as an expression of grief, or of anger, or even of desire.
The Greek word, stenázō, comes from the root word, stenós, which means “compressed, constricted”. The idea is that one who groans is doing so “because of pressure being exerted forward (like the forward pressure of childbirth)”. Figuratively[, it means “to feel pressure from what is coming on – which can be intensely pleasant or anguishing (depending on the context)”. (See Biblehub)
Stenós, then, seems to be the internal pressure that causes us to groan inwardly, and stenázō seems to be an outward negative response to that inward pressure – to grumble. The word is also translated complain, murmur and grudge.
As I think about these things, I realize that we do not control the pressures that bear down on us from within (and without), but we do control how we react to those pressures. Grumbling, complaining, and murmuring against others and against God is a negative reaction to the pressures we face.
James calls us to react differently to the pressures we face – with patience and perseverance. If we give in to grumbling and complaining against each other, we become judges of each other, forgetting that we have a Judge who stands at our door!
This passage also suggests that, while we may groan inwardly, we do not have to groan (grumble and complain) outwardly – though we may strongly desire to! We have a choice in the matter, and the better choice is to be patient and persevere.
That observation, perhaps, begs the question: why is it better to persevere with patience rather than grumble?Continue reading “What The Bible Has to Say about Grumbling and How to Overcome It”