Image by Life As Art on Flickr. CC BY NC-ND-2.0

The people who staff the complaint department at various businesses must have the patience of Job.

They have to deal with endless customer gripes, like the actual ones listed below.

Computer and electronics help lines have to deal with head-scratchers like these ones:

“The foot pedal for my computer doesn’t work.” (It was the mouse. The customer apparently thought computers worked like sewing machines.)
“My digital camera couldn’t fit everyone I wanted in the photo.” (Perhaps he should just take a step back instead of demanding a refund?)

Restaurant managers have to put up with grievances such as:

“My steak is too steaky tasting.”
“There’s stale chicken in my salad.” (It was a crouton.)

But perhaps hotels and travel agencies have to deal with the most mind-boggling complaints of all:

“There was no sign telling you that you shouldn't get in a hot air balloon if you're afraid of heights.”
“It rained. We didn't know it ever rained in Spain.” (Mainly on the plain?)
“Stonehenge was just a bunch of rocks in a field.”
“The beach was too sandy.”
“Our hotel room had no ocean view.” (It was in the middle of London.)

I guess the customer isn’t always right!

Sometimes God has to put up with a lot of complaints as well. We ask Him:

Why am I having to go through this?

Why don’t you give me what others have?

Why didn’t you come through for me like I expected?

Image by PDPics from Pixabay

God seems to be okay with a certain amount of grousing on our part. He gave David and the other psalmists some leeway to gripe about the circumstances they found themselves in, and to protest about the length of time it was taking God to intervene:

“Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever.” (Psalm 44:23)
“Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.” (Psalm 22:2)
“O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?” (Psalm 13:1)

But more often than not, the psalmists rounded out their objections with expression of faith and trust in God’s lovingkindness and goodness.

“But I have trusted in Your loving devotion;
my heart will rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

There’s even an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations, a compendium of the suffering and despair which followed the destruction of Jerusalem. And yet smack dab in the middle of it we find these soaring verses, which were the inspiration for the classic hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”:

Perhaps this might be a clue to the difference between complaining and lamenting, although their meanings overlap somewhat.

Complaining involves grumbling, resentment, and fault-finding. It expresses dissatisfaction or even anger, and reveals an unthankful and untrusting heart.

Lamenting leans more toward mourning a situation and expressing sadness or grief. It leaves room for faith, trust, and praise even in the midst of bewilderment over our circumstances.

Maybe that’s the formula that is acceptable to God. Yes, bring our petitions to Him, even our laments, but season them with humility. Express faith in His goodness and trust that He is working things out for our good and His glory. Be careful of veering into complaining: God eventually lost patience with the children of Israel for this very reason.

Remember: God’s hotline is open all the time, but his complaint department has limited hours!

© 2023 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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