Complaining

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.

5 Replies to “Complaining”

  1. Thanks so much for bringing those verses to mind, you are right, so often we think of all complaining being bad, and therefore forget to bring our troubles to God.

  2. I love these thoughts of yours! So often in my own journey I have struggled with anger at God, and the knowledge that this has to be sin! But even Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from him (quickly followed by willingness to suffer if the Lord willed it). I am learning to ask God, learning to speak to God, learning to love God more.

  3. Thank you for sharing; good thoughts! I guess I never really thought about complaining and how there were indeed complainers in the Bible.
    Like you said, it’s best to bring them to God each and every day and seek His comfort.

  4. Such an important distinction between complaining and a complaint! Thank you for reminding us that it is just fine to bring complaints to God in the right mindset.

  5. somehow the two must coincide, not contradict. there is a just complaint. and there is also an unjust one. i can’t help but think that the complaining we are warned against has more to do with what we say to others (as in doug’s sermon), our perspective, our attitude, what spills out when we get bumped or poked or even gashed (as you have reminded me with that great article). bringing our cares to the Lord is one thing. but dwelling on our “injustices” that we have suffered (implicitly suffered *at His hands*, when others have prospered and it’s not fair) is another. what we justly deserve is hell. all else is grace. it’s not that it’s a “sin” to complain, so much as it steals the abundant life that God would have us live in, even in the midst of immense pain and grief, if we would receive from His hand with thanks. as when Jesus knew the pain He was about to endure, he took the bread (His body), he GAVE THANKS, and broke it. i have seen you do this, melissa, over and over. to give thanks BY FAITH, without understanding how any of this can possibly be a gift from the Father, but you know that all things are a gift, and so you take what He gives, your loving Father, and you bless His name. that preaches a winsome gospel to the onlooking world, that Christ’s bride submits herself to His will, and trusts in His love for her even when it doesn’t make sense BECAUSE HE IS TRUSTWORTHY.

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