February 3, 2018 • Life for Leaders
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
“Can’t complain,” she said to me.
“Yes, you can,” I answered back.
The next day, someone else said the same thing to me in a text message. “Can’t complain.”
I texted back my standard answer to that two-word declaration, “Yes, you can.”
“Complaining doesn’t help,” the texter answered back.
In case you missed it, I beg to differ.
I get it, though. For those of us with a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and shoes on our feet, it’s hard to justify any reason for complaint. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that a certain state of affairs or some event has irritated or frustrated us. Really, it’s okay.
Sometimes, complaining helps to get the frustration or disappointment or despair out of our heads. When that happens, we’re in a much better place to make good decisions and see things more clearly. Not complaining often serves the same function as stuffing our emotions. Eventually, the pressure valve pops off, releasing a storm of unfiltered havoc, all over some poor, unsuspecting bystander.
On the other end of the spectrum, of course, is getting stuck in a cycle of complaint. People who seem to do nothing but complain lose credibility and wear others out with their persistent grumbling. There is a fine line when it comes to complaints. Similarly, our timing and audience matter. But that doesn’t mean there is never a time or a place for complaining. Just check the Psalms, in case you’re not sure. David was a master complainer, and we can follow his example. Check out Psalm 13 above.
There is a beautiful transition that seems to take place, right there at the beginning of verse five. In verse five, David’s focus has shifted and is now entirely on God. David’s complaints have fallen away. On the page, the transition takes place in the space right after verse four. But, in reality, the transition takes place in David’s heart.
God is not measuring our frustrations, disappointments, or despair against those of others. God cares about each of us, exactly the same. When we diminish our own frustrations, we are holding back from God. Offering our complaints to God is one of the best things we can do. When we go to God with our complaints, he is more than able to transform our perspective and redeem the situation, beyond our wildest dreams.
Something to Think About:
Do you feel freedom to complain to God? Why or why not? What is one complaint you’d like to address to God today?
Something to Do:
Go ahead and complain to God. Write your complaint in a letter, or an email, addressed to God. Or find a place where you can be alone (I find the car helpful for this) and get your complaints out of your system. Be as loud as you’d like, and take as much time as you need. Take note of how you feel afterward.
Lord, I have disappointments, fears, losses, and frustrations. I feel as if some of these things are your fault. I’d like to talk with you about these things, but I’m afraid to, or I don’t know how. I’m afraid I’ll make you mad at me, or that I’ll disappoint you. I know your love is unconditional. Help me to receive that truth into my heart as well. Let me feel close enough to you—as David did —to share even my complaints with you. Amen.
God used you.
I really do complain, to God and my husband especially, but I don’t think that God is to blame. Most of my problems are my own fault, or someone else’s. Maybe that has to do with being 66, but I’m not sure. I think most of out problems are the result of our sins or someone else’s sin.
Great column Deidra. It came to me just when I needed it. I see God’s hand in this.
What about Philippians 2:14-15? “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
I think that has to do with public, indiscriminate complaint, where someone just complaints just to show the world how miserable one is. I think the complaining here is personally between the psalmist and God, examples of which are many.