I read an interesting blog post this week that challenged my perception of complaining.
The author, Emily Saxe, delved into the difference between complaining and lamenting. She presented a case, drawing from the example of David who faithfully lamented before God in the Psalms. She contrasted how complaining (woe is me, life isn’t fair) is spiritually detrimental while lamenting (only God can help and I will seek Him) is righteous.
(Read Emily Saxe’s post, Ordinary ways to Pursue and Honor God: Complaining, here.
Crying out to God
David, the apple of God's eye, lamented when life got rocky. His words are dramatic and full of emotion. You can hear the hurt, confusion, and betrayal. You can also hear his hope and faith in God's goodness.
I make supplication with my voice to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
You knew my path.
In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.
I cried out to You, O Lord;
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
“Give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me.
“Bring my soul out of prison,
So that I may give thanks to Your name;
The righteous will surround me,
For You will deal bountifully with me.”
Hope & Despair
Wondering about the correlation between deferred hope and bringing complaints to God, I came across the story of Hannah in the Old Testament.
Hannah’s story opens the Books of Samuel. She was the wife of Elkanah (Elkanah was also married to Peninnah). Peninnah had sons and daughters while Hannah—the favored wife—was barren. Because of this, Hannah’s sister wife ridiculed her.
Hannah was heartbroken over her lack of a son. Every year, when the family went to make sacrifices, she wept over her reality as her sister wife taunted her barrenness. Hannah’s husband tried to appease her discontent by reminding her of what she already had—his love. A familiar strategy, I think. Count your blessings. But in this circumstance, it wasn’t enough.
When Hannah couldn’t take the weight of her despair any longer, she sought the Lord at the temple, where even the priest misunderstood her situation and heaped more shame on her shoulders by accusing her of being a drunk.
At the Bottom but Looking Up
Hannah was brought low by despair, taunted by her enemy, told to be happy with the status quo by her husband, and misunderstood by the priest, but she pressed on and received from God what she had hoped and prayed for.
God didn’t punish Hannah’s discontent. He fulfilled her desire. And she in turn gave her answered prayer back to God.
Proverbs 13:12 was penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Unfilled desires, hurt, and heartbreak are a reality of life. When we encounter them, may we be like David and Hannah as we bring them before God, trusting him to save, fulfill, and deliver.
Unfilled desires, hurt, and heartbreak are a reality of life. When we encounter them, may we be like David and Hannah as we bring them before God, trusting him to save, fulfill, and deliver. Click To Tweet
How has God fulfilled or spoken to long-held hope in your life?
Recently when I was struggling with a particularly painful issue, I was sitting on my couch praying silently. In my head, all I could say was, "I don't know what to do."
Immediately, my phone started playing the hymn Take my Hand, Precious Lord. The lyrics spoke straight to my heart. When I wiped the tears away and opened my phone to find where the song was playing from, no music app was even running.
God renewed my hope that day.