Complaint or Praise
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
Many years ago, one of my close friends gave up complaining for Lent. I thought it was a very interesting choice. Usually people give up broccoli or wind surfing. But this guy thought that he would like to work on something that might actually make a difference in his life and in his witness. I was impressed. And as I recall, he experienced a fair amount of success and reported that he complained much less in his life after Lent was over.
Most of us are experts at complaining. No one has to teach us how to do it. One of my first complaints was "I'm bored." I learned quickly not to say that because my parents were always able to find something for me to do! When we tend to complain the most is when we are suffering. We want everyone to know about our situation and if it is a contentious situation, we want people to side with us. We are looking for company in our misery.
James suggests an alternative to complaining, but it requires an epic amount of self-discipline. His alternative is prayer and praise. The challenge is to remember to turn away from the complaining and shut it down. This requires a conscious decision to pray. Turn your complaints to to God. He's strong enough to hear it and can easily deal with your discomfort. When we spend time complaining to God, it doesn't take long before the conversation heads in a more positive direction. The Spirit hears and ministers to your pain, thus allowing you to move into the praise portion of your prayer time. It requires discipline - but it is possible.