Should We Complain to God?

Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Exodus 5:22

We live in a world that breeds discontent. We are bombarded with the message that to be happy we need more things, fewer wrinkles and better vacations. We also live in a world of sin, violence, sickness and death.

Jesus calls us to constant prayer (Luke 11:9-10), but what about our complaints?

James Tissot’s Moses and the Burning Bush

There are numerous biblical references to believers like Job, David and Moses complaining to God in the midst of their troubles and suffering. Despite his worries and doubts, Moses obeyed God. He fails in his first attempt to lead God’s people out of slavery, and things only get worse. Out of despair he complains to God. Is that a sign of discontent and a lack of faith? Or are complaints a part of a relationship with God?

Consider the Psalms of lament – prayers and songs that show us how to express our pain to God in a context of worship.

In these laments the authors pour out to God their sorrow (Psalm 137), anger (Psalm 140), fear (Psalm 69), confusion (Psalm 102), disappointment (Psalm 74), and depression (Psalm 88).

God anticipates that we will experience pain, so he gives us language to express it in prayer and worship. We can do this privately, like David did when he wrote Psalm 142 (1 Samuel 22), and we can do this corporately, like the people of Israel did when they sang Psalm 142.

Psalms of lament remind us that God does not expect for us to always experience prosperity. They also model for us how to complain in a way that honors God.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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