Last week we began our journey through the book of Lamentations, finding the grace of God through the process of lament. Pain and grief are a part of living in world broken by sin, so it is imperative that we develop a biblically based process for dealing with them. Last week we introduced the fourfold process for dealing with sorrow as outlined in Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop. This process is 1) an address to God, 2) a complaint, 3) a request, and 4) an expression of trust (turn, complain, ask, and trust). In Lamentations 1, we saw how in the midst of overwhelming sorrow, Jeremiah turned to cry out to God. In Lamentations 2, we see Jeremiah bring his complaint to God.
For many of us, the idea of complaining seems scandalous and sinful. To be sure, there is a selfish, ungrateful attitude of complaint that is rooted in sin. But I am afraid that we may have allowed the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction such that we honor those who face even the most devastating of circumstances with the forced smile of Christian stoicism. In my opinion, such falsity is just as scandalous and sinful as a complaining spirit. Somewhere in the middle is the second step of lament, biblically based complaint, and it is found throughout Scripture. We see it in Abraham as he longs for the son God promised him. We see it in the Israelites as they groan under the injustice of slavery. We see it in David as he is on the run from a murderous and capricious king. And we see it in Revelation as the martyrs cry out for God’s justice. The Bible is full of complaints that are not only not condemned by God, but rather actually welcomed by Him. As Stacey Gleddiesmith says, “A [complaint] honestly and specifically names a situation or circumstance that is painful, wrong, or unjust—in other words, a circumstance that does not align with God’s character and therefore does not make sense within God’s kingdom.” Thus, a biblical complaint is one that asks God to explain how the pain we are facing aligns with His character and promises.
When we complain in a biblical way, we give voice to our fears and frustrations. In doing so, we enable ourselves, with the direction of the Holy Spirit, to address these fears and frustrations instead of letting them fester in the deep recesses of our souls. As we cry out to God in our pain, our focus shifts from us and our circumstances to God and His faithfulness. It is in this truth that we find the final key to biblical complaint—it is meant to be a means, not the end. Biblical complaint helps us move from pain to healing, but we must not remain in the complaint phase of lament. We must allow lament to continue to lead us into the fullness of healing grace that God has for us.
In Lamentations 2, we see the weeping prophet bring his full grief to bear before God. Notice he does not do so with anger or accusation. Rather, he comes before God with his genuine grief over the destruction of all that he holds dear. He readily acknowledges God’s justice in punishing Jerusalem for her sins, but he nevertheless humbly brings his “why.” For forty years he had been faithful to warn God’s people of this day. Why had they not listened? As we struggle to understand our pain, let us like Jeremiah bring our complaint to God, for He is listening.
- When you think of the word “complaint”, what comes to mind? Is it positive or negative?
- What is the difference between biblical complaint and a complaining spirit? How do we avoid falling into the latter? Why is Christian stoicism dangerous?
- How does biblical complaint change our focus? How can the Holy Spirit work through complaint?
- Re-read Lamentations 2. How does Jeremiah frame his complaint in a biblical way? How does he appeal to God’s character and promises?