“Don’t complain about what you can’t change” is one of my husband’s favorite sayings. You’re probably asking yourself, “What kind of person has that as a favorite saying?” I KNOW. I LIVE WITH HIM. He’s so weird! I prefer sayings like, “Might as well eat another cookie and make it an even dozen.” But Adam is gifted in accepting hard truths. He sees difficulties like a bull sees the color red…he’s going to charge at that thing with all his strength until it’s defeated. And he’s not going to whine about it.
I mean, it’s not very romantic but it’s SUPER beneficial, which is a good description of our marriage, tbh.
Complaining about what I can’t change is a hole I fall into often. Truthfully, I’ve gotten the raw end of a lot of deals. I’ve experienced traumas that I didn’t cause, and I’m doing my best to clean up messes that other people made. In this season, I am hitting therapy hard…and it’s costing me, my husband, and the friends around me who have promised to stay til it’s finished.
And sometimes, I just straight up want to whine about it. WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THESE HARD THINGS? I didn’t choose or cause this mess, so why does the responsibility fall on me to pick up the pieces?
And in the moment, boy it feels good to complain about what I can’t change. It feels good to concentrate on the anger I feel towards people who could’ve helped, but chose to blame. It feels good to concentrate on the bitterness I feel towards the “You have a submission problem” lectures I got, when what I needed was, “I hear you; I understand why you have a hard time trusting men.” I’ve got dozens of mental arguments I can choose at random to sit and stew about it.
But when I do those things, I feel exhausted. I feel wretched. I feel angrier, and more bitter, and honestly? I feel further away from the good things in my life: my family, my friends, my relationship with Christ. All of my ranting drowns out the helpful voice of Jesus, who beckons me to let go of the past and choose progress.
I cannot receive the blessings of today when both my hands are grasping the injustices of my past.
Jacob shows us the reward of pursuing healing in the book of Genesis. Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, is sold into slavery by his own brothers. The brothers then lie to Jacob and claim Joseph was eaten by wild animals. The wild animals are not explicitly named, but I suspect komodo dragons; they are TERRIFYING!
Jacob was heartbroken; he wept and grieved for what he thought was the death of his son. But after they’re reunited, Jacob says to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” (Genesis 48:11)
Jacob wastes no time lamenting his lost years with Joseph, or venting anger at his (now repentant) other sons. He has already done the hard work of healing, and his hands are open to hold the blessings of the present. He rejoices over his grandchildren, and he praises God for the restoration of his son. Jacob did his grieving and mourning. It is time to rejoice.
And so little by little, I (begrudgingly but gratefully) follow my husband’s advice. I make a new choice daily not to complain. I choose, sometimes minute by minute, to forgive the misguided advice of others. I look for the abundance of God in my life: new friends who make me laugh, a husband who is an all-time great kisser, sons who beg me for bedtime stories.
The past can keep it’s pain. I will do the hard work of healing and grasp new joy with shaking, grateful hands.