I’m sure you’ve all seen a poster like this:
Contentment, however, does not mean we can’t “moan and complain to God and to our friends,” Jeremiah Burroughs tells us in his Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
Surprised? I was. I’ve always been taught we are not to complain about our trials. I mean, imagine how many friends you’d have left if you made “moaning and complaining” your MO.
Really though, he goes on to explain that although we’re to be quiet under God’s correcting hand (and the whole idea that difficulties in our lives could be God’s correction of us is a topic for another post), it’s not inconsistent with contentment to complain to God.
- Job did it (“…my groanings pour out like water…” 3:24)
- Abraham did it (“Look, you have given me no offspring…” Gen. 14:3)
- David (“I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.” Ps. 77:3)
- Jeremiah (“See, O LORD…if there is any sorrow like my sorrow…” Lam. 1:12)
- Habakkuk (“Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?” Hab. 1:3)
These and many other biblical folks all bemoaned their conditions. Christians are not stoics, indifferent to pain or pleasure. Nor are we Buddhists who deny feeling any desire or need.
When you are in a relationship with the Lover of your soul, you talk to Him about what’s troubling you.
But our friend Mr. Burroughs tempers his permission to make our complaint. There’s to be none of these:
In modern parlance:
murmuring = grumbling
vexing & fretting = angry griping
a spirit in tumult = stormy emotions that threaten to boil over
sinking discouragement = despair that loses confidence in God’s goodness
desperate rebellion = shaking a fist at God; turning your back on God
So, we can complain to God and our friends about genuine difficulties. But I’d add a word of warning:
I learned early on, to wisely choose to confide only in those who would direct me back to the truths of scripture. Jeremiah says a Christian may “communicate his sad condition to his Christian friends, showing them how God has dealt with him, and how heavy the affliction is upon him, that they may speak a word in season to his weary soul,” (italics mine) The purpose of complaining to God or friends is to be encouraged to see God’s purposes in our miseries, not simply to vent.
Sympathetic friends who either joined me in mutual complaining or agreed with me that I had it tough, actually did me damage. Their well-meant comments either served to depress me or fostered self-pity. But biblical counsel always has a way of bringing comfort, correction or courage.
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!”