I’ve been thinking a lot about complaining this week. It was brought up from the pulpit, and then the subject has been thrown around a bit in various capacities throughout the week. I’ve searched Scripture for references of complaining, and searched blogs of pastors I respect for their thoughts on the subject. I haven’t come up with a really well thought out essay on complaining at all… but I do have some random thoughts about it.
Job, David, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk are complainers. But Job was the most righteous man who lived, and David was a man after God’s own heart, and Jeremiah & Habakkuk sought the Lord with much determination and were trumpets of His voice.
Here are some Scriptures and themes that reference complaining that I have been meditating on this week:
- In Job 6, my Bible’s headline says “my complaint is just.”
- Job 7:11, “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
- Job 10:1, “I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”
- Psalm 55:2, “Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan…”
- Psalm 55:17, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and He hears my voice.”
- Psalm 64:1, “Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint…”
- Psalm 102:1 [A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.] “Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to You!”
- Psalm 142:2, “I pour out my complaint before Him; I tell my trouble before Him.”
- Jeremiah 12:1, “Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to You; yet I would plead my case before You…”
- Habakkuk chapter 1 has two large complaints to the Lord.
What do these things show us? I think the greatest thing it is showing me is that complaining to the Lord is acceptable, and He hears our cries even when they contain complaints. Other verses in Scripture condemn complaining, when we are complaining to others, specifically about superficial things & circumstances.
Douglas Wilson says (in this wonderful sermon), There is a vast difference between complaining about God, which is terrible, and complaining to God, which He welcomes.
I think that is a truly excellent distinction!
Again, Mr. Wilson says (in this exhortation), You may bring your objective complaints with you; indeed He requires it. But you do so in order to cast all your anxieties on Him, the One who cares for you.
This shows the reason behind a just complaint: to cast it on the Lord.
So I am learning that the phrase “complaining is a sin” is not exactly Truth.
Grumbling, murmuring, whining ~ that type of complaining is sinful, because it does not embrace the sovereign goodness of God.
So what is a just complaint? What does it look like to complain to the Lord and complain righteously before Him? And what do we do with verses like Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining”? I am assuming that things can all go back to root words and definitions: the Hebrew and Greek words for complaining in various parts of Scripture may actually mean various things, that our modern translators have all lumped together as simply “complaining.” I’d love to research root variants in this subject. (In all my free time… hah!)
I’m [hopefully] learning, and am prayerfully seeking the Lord’s wisdom on this ~ because I think it’s something that is very elusive. Practical application in real life looks like not complaining about the weather, my reflection in the mirror, how tired I am, how sick I may feel, how difficult my job is… But bringing complaints to the Lord about frustrations with sin, death, and things He is doing in my life in order to cast my cares on Him and seek His comfort, beg for His deliverance, and ask for His mercy to be poured out is, as quite the contrast, beautiful.
As it so happens, I am currently bringing complaints to the Lord, seeking His comfort, begging for His deliverance, and asking for Him to pour out mercy ~ and casting my cares on Him is increasingly encouraging as I plod onward in life and in sanctification.