John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Maybe You Need to Learn How to Complain

David now lives in a cave. And he didn't do anything wrong! That's the frustrating part. If he had brought this on himself, we might be able to say, "Well, that's what you get. You've made your bed; now lie in it." But David didn't do anything wrong (at least not yet).

So, what do you do when you find yourself in a cave, and you don't deserve to be there? Well, believe it or not, one of the best things for you to do is learn how to complain. That's right -- you read that correctly -- I am advocating that you learn how to complain.

How many of you think you already know how to complain pretty well? How many of you think that might just be your spiritual gift?

Here's why I say we need to learn how to complain: we complain to the wrong source. We take our complaints to other people. And what are they going to do? Pat you on the head and say, "Gosh, it sucks to be you, doesn't it?" They can't really do anything to help.

I mean, they can offer some advice or a strong shoulder to lean on. But that's about it. They can't really change the situation.

But God can.

See, there's where we need to register our complaints. Go directly to God. Discuss your discouragement openly and honestly with him. That's what David does in Psalms 142, 57, 34 and many others. In fact, scholars have divided the Psalms up into different categories (psalms of thanksgiving, enthronement psalms, psalms of wisdom, etc.). The largest category of psalms is the Psalm of Lament -- which is really just a fancy way of saying Psalms of Complaint.

What's interesting is that this type of literature is pretty unique to Judaism. No other ancient religion complained to its god(s). Other religions worshiped, praised and asked their god(s) to curse other people. They made requests and asked for blessings/health/prosperity/etc. But only Jews kvetched to their God.

And, apparently, YHWH doesn't mind so much. He actually allows people to do this. He can handle it.

A lot of people just don't have the courage to do this. They stuff their discouragement down and pretend to be fine. They force a smile and pretend everything's blue skies and rainbows and sunbeams from heaven. We pray polite things that have nothing to do with what's really going on inside of us.

But the only place you can meet God is in reality. And sometimes reality is a messy and confusing place. David gets in front of God and lets him know what's going on in his heart.

For those of you who are in caves, maybe you need to learn how to complain. I bet you didn't expect to hear that, did you?