May Christians Complain?

Someone asked what my thoughts are on God’s people ‘complaining’ or wrestling with Him in their trials, and if in exhorting one another to be content we try to “accelerate the timetable on when that submission should be.”

I don’t think that contentment is opposed to voicing our difficulties and sorrows, especially not when we bring our complaints before God. The Psalms give us many examples of the believer crying out to God in great need. But often in the next breath he speaks of hope and deliverance. Take Psalm 130, the Psalmist  begins with “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” But then a little later: “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.” Or Psalm 43, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. ”

In Psalm 77 the Psalmist complains: “I am so troubled that I cannot speak…Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” But then it sounds as if he shakes himself out of his despondency: “This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.  I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.  I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.”

It’s striking that the Psalmist’s tone changes from despair to hope, but not because his prayer was answered. It changed because he focused on who God is, and has been all along.

In crying out to God, in opening our heart to Him so He can see our deep pain, we do what the Lord Jesus Himself lovingly encourages to do in Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He does not promise us to take the burden away, but He will give rest in carrying the burden; adjust the yoke so it fits well.

He was fully qualified to promise us that, because He agonized under the heaviest burden ever: the full cup of God’s wrath on sin. And He cried out three times that if possible His Father would let this cup pass Him by, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Paul had learned to be content. At what school? The school of suffering. He speaks about a painful permanent affliction that he begged the Lord to remove from him—three times.  But what was the Lord’s answer? “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  And this lesson was so precious to Paul that he could say the impossible, and as it were took a short cut to true Christian contentment:

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul did not dismiss his struggles, but he experienced in them the blessing of “the fellowship of His sufferings”.

Malcolm Muggeridge said in an interview at the end of his life:

As an old man, looking back on one’s life, it’s one of the things that strike you most forcibly–that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering. Not success, not happiness, not anything like that. The only thing that really teaches one what life’s about–the joy of understanding, the joy of coming in contact with what life really signifies–is suffering, affliction.

I would like to re-use that last sentence and modify it a bit: The only thing that really teaches one what the Christian Life is about—the joy of understanding God and His sufficiency, the joy of knowing the Way, the Truth, and the Life—is suffering, affliction.

We should not try to hasten the process of true Christian contentment, by dismissing or belittling pain and sorrow.  But we do want to learn from the Psalms and the saints who lamented, sometimes very loudly, but still trusted and hoped in the Lord their God. After all,

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6


Posted by Elina

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