From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 3 – Cultivate the attitude of thankfulness until it is a habit
When niggling little problems get under our skin and cause us to complain, they demonstrate that our sinful flesh nature hasn’t been properly crucified yet. That’s not a good sign. But there is at least this one advantage in being exposed to aggravating little problems. Our reactions remind us that we need to work harder to crucify our own flesh and die to self. Low level suffering or inconveniences, especially unexpected ones, are very good at exposing areas of uncrucified flesh, where the sin nature is still active within us.
There’s a valuable lesson in that. Perhaps that is one reason why God keeps on allowing some rain to fall into our lives. It brings us down to earth and reminds us of our real condition, and the true level of our maturity, or immaturity. It also reminds us of our need for Him and of our need to do battle with our sinful flesh nature and to keep putting it to death. (See Book Seven for more detail).
So, one important thing which is revealed when we choose either to complain or to give thanks is whether the ‘new man’ or the ‘old man’ is in control of us at that moment. The old man is a name the Bible uses for our sinful flesh nature. The ‘new man’, conversely, is the phrase the Bible uses for our own spirit which is born again and comes to life when we become a Christian. The new man cannot sin, whereas the old man cannot do anything other than sin. Both are part of you and you will have that old man within you and causing problems until you die. Then you will, at last, be rid of him.
At any given moment, you have to decide whether you will let your old man or your new man be your ‘spokesman’. The question is to which of them will you ‘pass the microphone’? You always have a choice at any given moment. You can let the old man speak, in which case he will complain. Or you can let the new man speak, in which case he will give thanks. So, you can easily tell whether your new man or old man is speaking on your behalf, simply by listening to whether your mouth is giving thanks or moaning.
To complain is to demonstrate that we are self-centered
The fact that we complain also indicates that we are still self-centered, rather than focused on Jesus and on other people, as we ought to be. Again, that discovery is our cue to seek to change and to ask God for His help. When we do complain, thus indicating that we’re preoccupied with self, then the best thing to do is to openly acknowledge it. Confess it to God as sin, rather than trying to justify it or deny it. Ask Him to redeem the situation by using those difficult circumstances constructively and profitably, so as to help us to see what we’re really like, and to change.