I haven’t been getting very good rest lately. My cat acted loony and messed up the table cloth. My workout was really hard today – both squats and deadlifts. I regularly struggle with not liking something about my body. I was stuck behind slow-moving traffic while running errands today. I ordered some new pants, and they didn’t fit right. The dogs barked at the UPS delivery guy while my daughter was napping. These are just complaints I’ve thought since I woke up this morning. Without even trying, you can find yourself complaining or focusing on the negative far too often. This made me wonder: is it okay to complain?
I thought a good place to go to focus on this topic is the book of Job. To provide some context, in case you’ve never read Job, it goes something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a righteous man named Job who had lots and lots of possessions, a large, happy family, and honored God faithfully with his life. One day, God and Satan were having a conversation and God allowed Satan to test Job because Satan suspected that under trials, Job would curse God. So in a matter of hours, all of Job’s possessions (livestock) and all of his children were killed or taken away from him. Job was so upset that he tore his clothes and shaved his head (I’m assuming this was a custom of showing grief back then), but still, Job did not curse God. In fact, after cursing himself and the day he was born, he still had the faithfulness to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” [WOW!] As if the above wasn’t bad enough, God then allowed Satan to strike Job with boils from head to toe so that he was physically suffering in pain too. Job’s wife even pressured Job to curse God, but Job replied “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
What an amazing response, so grounded in his resolve to love the Lord no matter what.
It’s true though, God is not only worthy of praise during the highs in our lives, but during the lows too.
The rest of Job is discussion back and forth between Job and his “friends” – Job cursing himself and questioning God about why this has befallen him, but never cursing Him, and then Job’s “friends” rebuking Job for being sinful. It’s a little hard to understand because it’s written in poetic form, but there is no doubt that Job is complaining about what has happened to him.
So back to my question: is it okay to complain? “Complain” is only mentioned 5 times in the New Testament, but only two verses stand out to me as addressing this question:
Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
1 Peter 4:9
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
After contemplating these verses, and talking more with my husband, I don’t think the act of complaining is in and of itself wrong, but I think it steers your thoughts and attitude inward (selfishness, bitterness, etc.) Perhaps it’s better to ask: is complaining beneficial? I would of course answer no, most often complaining is not beneficial and only leads me to focus on myself.
In life and especially when experiencing suffering it’s easy for me to complain about a lot of things. My takeaway from this is that if I feel the need to complain, I should do so to God, just like Job did, but not to others because who wants to be around a negative person?
It’s okay to ask God why something has happened to you. It’s not okay to blame Him or curse Him, but I think it’s part of us having a relationship with Him to question Him and express anguish or confusion over something in our lives we do not understand. But ultimately, we should trust Him and keep faith and hope in Him amidst trials in our lives.
I like how Job does this in these two verses:
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
All the days of my struggle I will wait
Until my change comes.
I love that last one, I will wait until my change comes. It’s a great reminder that every period of suffering has a beginning and must therefore have an end. Someday, somehow.