The Weekly Epistle 4/19/23

Hi Church,
Sanctified griping. Wait. Is that a thing? Is there a way to complain and it not be sin? This past Sunday as we looked at Isaiah 40 and the people’s complaint that in essence accused God of not being there for them, it got me thinking about the complaining we see in other places in Scripture. 

I was drawn to the Psalms and the frequency of the Psalmist pouring out his complaint to God. Psalm 142 for example, “With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (Psalm 142:1-2). It has been observed that close to one-third of the Psalms are laments. Laments seem to be righteous complaints. 

There appears to be a difference between complaining to God and grumbling against Him. There is a fine line between the two. We do need to walk carefully here. What’s the difference? I said on Sunday, when we accuse God of wrongdoing, then we have crossed that line from sanctified complaining to sin. 

John Piper addressed this issue of grumbling against God. “Grumbling complaints directly or indirectly declare that God is not sufficiently good, faithful, loving, wise, powerful or competent. Otherwise, he would treat us better or run the universe more effectively.” 

God invites us to complain…to Him. He wants us to tell him our problems. God encourages us to speak honestly to him about what is troubling us. There is way to do this that honors Him. The Psalms (and the entire book of Lamentation) model for us how we can complain to God without accusing Him of wrongdoing. Again Psalm 142 by the time it reaches the end of the complaint acknowledges the goodness of God. 

In a different Psalm, Asaph cries out to the Lord. He brings his complaint to Him. Yet, by the end, we hear him say, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:11-12). Do you see his resolve? I will…yes I will! He moves from indulging his emotions as powerful as they are to saying, “I will choose to do this.” 

So, go ahead and complain. To God. Take whatever is troubling you directly to Him. After all, God is the only one who can truly do something about your problem. We can complain to God without grumbling against Him. We can tell Him exactly how we feel with a faith that believes His promises; that remembers who He is! This is sanctified griping. 

I close with this prayer. You can personalize it by filling in the blanks. “Lord, you know that lately my complaints are the result of…. You know the cry of my heart is about…I surrender my distress over….to you and ask that you sustain me so that I can taste your goodness.” 

Blessings to you, Pastor Brian