“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” — Psalm 22:1-2
The human experience is messy—full of courage, fear, joy, despair, love, and hate. The soul’s need to pour out these emotions when life becomes overwhelming has led some to poetry, others to songs, and a few—moved by the Holy Spirit—to write what has become Scripture. In troubled times our words sound like those of the lamenting Psalmists, and it is for that reason that God allows us to witness a wide array of expression in the Bible, even when what is coming from our hearts is far from praise. We can bring our cries and complaints to the God who loves us; we were not intended to carry that pain alone. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this.
Many times we seek out cathartic relief by venting to friends or family, but if we stop there we do not complete the cycle of constructive complaint. Bitterly bemoaning our circumstances does not bring victory. We must take what torments us to the one who can move mountains to help us. Without gazing at the beauty of God, our complaints stay in the realm of “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.” Instead of transforming to, “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” — (Psalm 22:6-7, 23-24)
Is It Okay to Complain to God?
When we consider the whole counsel of Scripture, we should rightly ask, is bringing our complaints to God biblical? Philippians 2:14-15 beautifully commands that we, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Oh to shine like the stars, what a thing to desire; but how do we do everything without grumbling or arguing? How can we be honest about the profound suffering we might come face to face with as we navigate this broken and fallen world, and still shine as those fully committed to God? The Psalms, Job, and the book of Lamentations show us the guideposts—we turn our face towards God and lay our complaints bare at his throne of grace. We tell Jesus all our trouble and we remember that he sits unchanged, faithful and true.
Just like the author of Lamentations, we can cry out and say, “I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” We reveal an authentic account of the grief within us, and then we continue on as Lamentation’s author did, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:17-24).
In the book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament Mark Vroegop suggests that Christians stay humble, pray the Bible, be honest, and don’t just complain. Vroegop explains, “Complaint is central to lament. But Christians never complain just to complain. Instead, we bring our complaints to the Lord for the purpose of moving us toward him.” When complaint-worthy trials loom large in our lives we must do our job as ministers of reconciliation and allow them to become a catalyst of redemption instead of destruction. If we meditate on all that causes us to fret instead of the promises of a mighty God, we soon believe lies the devil is whispering in the shadows of our circumstances. Instead, we must declare, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
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