Is it ever allowable to complain? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I have seen a few posts on Facebook lately about Christians complaining. There are two approaches people can sometimes make when someone is upset about how things are going in their life. The first is to say that someone else out there has it worse than you do. The second is to tell you to be thankful for what you have.
Now I am sure that odds are, unless you are in the absolute worst position ever in history, someone does have it worse than you do and than I do. I am also sure that like me, you have plenty of things to be thankful for in your life. I also do realize that in Romans 1, lack of thankfulness is a problem that even leads to the judgment of God.
Still, that does not mean it is never wrong to complain. In reality, we do not live in utopia. We live in a place that has suffering it. Bad things happen in this world. When they do happen, there is no sin in complaining about it. Go read the Psalms some time. How many of them involve the Psalmist complaining about his lot in life at the time?
What we are in some sense sometimes telling people when they are upset about their life is “Shut up!” This is not what we are told to do in Scripture. When someone is mourning, which can include complaining about their pain, we are to mourn them. When Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he tells them that when people die, we are to mourn, but we do not mourn like those who have no hope.
Someone could easily say “Don’t these people realize that their loved ones will rise and live again?” Yes, but it hurts right now. It hurts to have someone you care about and lose them for the rest of this lifetime. If your spouse or parent or sibling or friend or child or anyone else dies, you will be sad.
Sadness is something people have to work through. When i was in the worst part of my divorce, it was good to go to DivorceCare and be able to complain and share grief about what was going on with me. I still have friends from that group. We came together to share our pain and as a result we all managed to work through it better. There can still be times I call the leader just to share something that is going on and I am working through.
If people are in pain, you don’t want to tell them that they’re just ungrateful. That makes it worse. No one likes negative feelings, but it doesn’t mean we live in a dream world where we think they should never happen. Part of our current political climate is some people thinking they should never feel bad about anything. That’s just not realistic.
Of course, there is a time to stop complaining. Of course, we should learn to be thankful. The reality is that we have to realize still that there is pain. Life hurts a lot of times, and that’s not good, but it is acceptable to work through it.
If someone is complaining, one of the best things you can do sometimes in response is say nothing. Just listen. Just be there. There is a time to speak, but first make sure the other person knows they are heard.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)