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Complaining to God

“Lord, how long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me? Consider me and answer, Lord my God. Restore brightness to my eyes; otherwise, I will sleep in death. My enemy will say, ‘I have triumphed over him,’ and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance. I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously” (Psalm 13:1-6 HCSB).

The Bible is beautiful because it’s real. It’s about real people. Real emotions. Real frustrations.

Too often, we hide behind a forced spirituality that has more to do with the power of positive thinking than the faith of the Bible. We bury our emotions and frustrations because true faith doesn’t have doubts or fears, and it certainly doesn’t get upset with God.

The Bible, however, invites us to be real. It encourages our frustrations and our emotions of abandonment, especially abandonment from God. The psalms contain a number of laments, both individual and communal. The lament is simply a complaint to God. A holy complaint. It expresses raw feelings, emotions, and frustrations. Reading the laments in the Bible should teach us how to complain to God—and get real with our emotions before Him and before ourselves.

The lament follows a pattern: (1) address God, (2) describe the complaint, (3) request God’s help, and (4) express trust in God.

The author of Psalm 13 addresses himself to God and openly describes his complaint. He acknowledges feeling ignored by God, that God has hidden Himself from the psalmist. His cares and grief seem never-ending. Those he considers his enemies have come against him. He asks God to be moved to action and come to his aid, lest he be overwhelmed. He concludes by affirming his trust—despite his feelings and frustrations—in God’s faithfulness. God has been good to him in the past; he expects Him to be the same in the future. Notice, however, the psalm does not end with the resolution of his problems. He simply articulates his trust in God.

Do we allow ourselves to complain before God? Do we give voice to our deep frustrations before Him? Even our disappointments with Him?

The biblical lament never allowed for the person to be consumed with their feelings. The lamenter always returns to an affirmation of hope and trust in God. We can complain to God. We would grow in our faith if we genuinely allow it in ourselves and others. Our communities could become true places of refuge and healing if we allowed such raw, unfiltered expressions of our frustrations and emotions framed within our trust of God, even when He seems hidden.

PRAYER

O Lord, at times we feel cut off from You, like You have forgotten us. Like You have hidden Yourself from us. But our cry stretches out to You, our Father. We trust in You. Amen.

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