The Right Way to Complain

All of us have bad days. Sometimes we have a few bad days all in a row.

Suffering in many forms affects us and has affected us since that terrible day recorded for us in the third chapter of Genesis.

The need to talk about our frustrations,
fears, and stressors is natural.

We want to talk about these things. We need someone to hear them and help us carry them.

In this sin-cursed world, we daily experience one form or another of suffering, pain, trial, and discomfort. We look for a voice, a way to express the pain we experience.

We need to go to the Lord first when we are suffering and needing to vent, but is it okay for us to complain to God?

If so, how?

The Psalms are wonderful expressions of praise, thanksgiving, and, yes, even complaints.

The psalms of lament give us a voice for expressing ourselves as we walk through this fallen world.

With the psalms of lament we can learn
how to complain the right way.

First, though, we’ll talk about the wrong way.

There are at least four typical and unbiblical ways we might respond to suffering:

1. The Pious Voice

This says that there is no such thing as biblical complaining, because complaining is unbiblical. We must do all things without complaining, right? This especially includes not complaining to God. “Who do you think you are to talk to God like that?”

2. The Prosperous Voice

This says that complaining will affect our future prosperity. If we speak negatively, we will start in motion a course of events that will only lead to greater misery.

3. The Pompous Voice

We respond with brutal honesty. We shake our fists in the air at God and we tell Him without hindrance that we are not happy. He’s a big God, He can take it.

4. The Pity Voice

Here we respond by requesting that everyone’s attention be on us. Everyone must know our pain. We want the pity of the people.

So these are all good examples of how we shouldn’t complain.

What’s the right way to do it?

The tension here is balancing truth with honor. How do I voice my complaint in a way that is both honest and honoring to the Lord? The lament psalms provide us great practical direction.

Here are some observations about lament psalms:

  • There are more lament psalms than any other type of psalm.
  • They express the extremes of human life—suffering and joy.
  • They reflect a crisis from which the psalmist prays for deliverance.
  • The laments do not deny God’s sovereignty, presence, knowledge, care or goodness. As a matter of fact, they depend on those characteristics, because the solution to the problem is always God.
  • They are often ambiguous about the details of the problems, allowing us to relate better to what the psalmist is going through.
  • The laments express a heart of submission and acceptance of God’s will.
  • They are full of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of suffering.
  • Like other psalms, lament psalms have form and structure. And that structure guides us on how to help others give voice to their suffering.

We can see these elements in lament psalms like Psalm 13 and 22:

1. Complaint and Petition

This is the statement of the perceived problem. The complaint typically boils down to God’s inattentiveness and inaction, knowing that God is sovereign and that the circumstance exists under His direction. The complaint is directed at Him, because He is the only one who can solve it. The psalmist asks God to be attentive and act.

2. Confidence and Praise

He identifies his confidence in God’s character and His ability to attend to the matter and act. What the psalmist knows about God—His sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness—gives the psalmist his confidence. He voices his complaint to God and sings His praises without even a change in his circumstance.

Trusting God when you are hurting is hard. But remember that He is the God who knows every single thing about you and still loves you more than you love yourself. He can handle it when you go to Him with your burdens, fears, and doubts. He defends those who cannot defend themselves, and He acts at the perfect moment always.

He is not slack concerning His promises.
And He is who the Bible tells us He is.

I’ve learned over the years that when I go to the Lord first with my complaint, there is a much better chance of me being able to get through the hard time with the peace that passes all understanding surrounding me.

God invites us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us.

Have you accepted this invitation?

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