Mystical Mondays: A Foretaste of Felicity


Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:7-10, NIV

Complaining is a hot topic in our household. With three kids ages four and under, how could it not be?

“My tummy hurts” – a convenient complaint when they don’t want to eat what’s on their plate. “I’m tired” – is used when nothing else will work. “I don’t want to ____” – is a go-to complaint.

As a parent, it’s easy to get annoyed at little children who incessantly whine about their terrible little lives – lives that come with full-time chefs, chauffeurs, personal attendants, fashion consultants, and entertainment specialists (all roles filled by the parents). Who really could complain about that?

But then I think about how I complain and what it must sound like to God.

“I don’t want to do _____”

“My life is so hard.”

“God, why did you do this to me? What did I do to deserve this?”

Complaints look trivial when you understand the big picture. “Honey, you have to drink this gross-tasting medicine because it will make your tummy feel better 30 minutes from now” makes sense to adults who grasp the concept of medicine and how it can relieve suffering.

But for the person incapable of understanding why they must endure a temporary (or long-term) hardship, it seems like an honest question that demands an answer. Most of the time our “honest questions” are thinly veiled complaints. We think we’re getting a raw deal, so we ask a question – one that could be rephrased in a simple statement: “God, I don’t like this _____. Make it go away so I can be happy again.”

Accepting God’s direction and plan for our lives can be challenging, but not nearly challenging as striking out on our own. Who knows what pitfalls God might allow us to encounter, but we must trust that it is all for the purpose of shaping our character in becoming the person He created us to be. It’s coming to terms with God as the one controlling my life that squashes my complaining spirit and turns it into a grateful one.

Here’s what Francois Fénélon in his book The Inner Life had to say about submitting to God:

Thou grantest to those souls who never resist thee, O bridegroom of souls! Even in this life, a foretaste of this felicity.

In other words, if we accept what God has for us, we get to sample some happiness now. It may not sound like the most exciting invitation, but it outweighs all other options before us.

Ultimately, our complaining heart won’t be changed until it becomes a heart of thanksgiving, one that appreciates God for who He is and what He is doing in us without making the demands that we understand everything first. Once we do this, complaints melt into gratitude – and that’s something we can be thankful for.

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