Pastor Scott Jonas
Psalm 55: Complaining to God
Complaining is built into modern society. We have a whole court system, constitutionally created, for your complaints. Every business has customer service to listen to your issue and try to resolve it to your satisfaction. We receive email after email asking “How was your experience with our business today?” We pay therapists to listen to our problems and help us to be happier. Social media is a place where many people go to voice their complaints about their family, their community, their politicians and everything else. Complaining is expected in modern society.
So where do we get this idea that a faithful person doesn’t complain to God? Somehow many of us have it in our head that God doesn’t want to hear us be negative. We think that a completely holy person will let the troubles of this world roll off them like rain. We believe that we shouldn’t share our dark feelings with God. Praise to God is good. Complaining to God is bad.
Maybe we get this from the Bible itself. Who are the biggest complainers in there?, the Israelites in the dessert. They complained to Moses about food, water, danger, and so much more. Finally, Moses couldn’t take it anymore and he complained to God directly saying, “I didn’t birth these people, why do they come to me with their complaints.” In the New Testament, the Pharisees are the biggest complainers. They grumbles about Jesus all the time. James says in his book, “Do not grumble against one another.” I can see why we avoid complaining to God.
And yet the book of Psalms is filled with poetry of complaints. Faithful people poured out their heart to God in those poems. There is heartbreak, regret, exasperation, arrogance, praise, disappointment, despair, anger and jealousy. Many of the Psalms read like a diary. They are God’s people being honest about their feelings to their maker.
Psalm 55 says “Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.”
So how do we reconcile these two ideas: Grumbling is bad, complaining to God is good. Grumbling is an ungrateful disposition that inflicts pain on other people. The Pharisees grumbled about Jesus in order to stir up opposition to him. The Israelites grumbled to Moses even though he couldn’t address their needs. Had the Pharisees and the Israelites taken their complaints faithfully to God in prayer then it would have been a good thing. God is the only one who could listen and address their complaint.
We see this in the life of Jesus. People came to him all the time with complaints and a request. They had faith that he would listen and he could fix the problem. In John, Jesus’ mother complains to Jesus about the wedding running out of wine. He listens and addresses the problem. In Matthew, A leper complains and is healed. A centurion complains about a sick servant and immediately he is healed. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, with no one is Israel have I found such great faith. A disparate mother complains about her dead daughter. Jesus listens and raises her from the dead. Jesus tells her that her faith made her well. Two blind men, complain loudly to about their condition. He heard them, remarked on their faith and suddenly they could see. A Canaanite woman shares her pain to Jesus, complaining that her daughter is tormented by demons. Jesus says she is a woman of great faith and her daughter was healed instantly. Jesus wants us to bring our complaints to him because he can do something about it.
A child who has a loving relationship with her mother, goes to the mother with complaints. The child knows that they will be listened to and cared for. A chronically neglected child learns to keep his complaints to himself because no one is listening. We are God’s children and he loves to hear from us, especially our complaints. Why is that? A complaint is admitting that there are things beyond our control. In the case of Psalm 55, it’s a an enemy in power who is oppressing him. For many in the Gospels it’s a physical or spiritual affliction that isn’t going away. Grumbling to others won’t help, pleading to God does help.
We are going to be going through the Psalms, emphasizing the feelings that are expressed from a faithful person to God. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. God already knows what we are feeling much like a parent senses that their child is stressed out. But God wants us to vocalize it in the form of a request. This opens our heart.
I had a conversation with a man this week. I said, “We are called to know the pain of our congregation and our community.” He countered by saying, “I treat others the way I want to be treated. When I’m hurt, I just keep it to myself. I go in the corner and lick my wounds. I don’t want anyone to see me or be with me. I’ll figure things out on my own. Rugged individualism and all that. Therefore, I don’t reach out to people in pain.” I told him, “One of the first declarations of the Bible is “It’s not good for man to be alone. We are created to heal one another through sharing our pain. We are called to be vulnerable first to God and then with others.”
We’ve all been brought low by someone who constantly grumbles. Like the Pharisees, they aren’t saying it to anybody in particular. Their complaints just go into the atmosphere like pollution. How much less grumbling would there be in the world if everyone followed the example of the Psalms and went to God first with their complaints? How much less customer service agents would be necessary because people were more at peace with their Lord? How many less court cases would there be because people felt validated be their relationship with Jesus rather than a win before a judge?
If you are feeling something strongly, share it God in prayer. He may not give you what you want but like a good parent, he will listen. He’ll even commend you on your faithfulness. It takes a person of great faith to trust God with their feelings. God is strong. He’s heard it all. He can handle whatever your heart is going through. By Grace through Faith.