Have you ever been talking to someone and a light bulb goes on in your thoughts? To me, that’s God speaking. A friend, Linda, spoke a word to me that led to the following insights on the difference between complaining and lamenting. So, what is the difference? We know what complaining is: grumbling. Did you know that grumbling is even in the same list as idolatry and immorality in I Corinthians 10:10? Yet, nowhere does the Bible tell us not to lament.
Why would God put grumbling in the same category as idolatry and immorality? Because they are all rooted in unbelief and hopelessness. When we complain, we are actually saying, God, I don’t see you anywhere in the midst of this issue and I have no hope that You will come to the rescue. It’s an attitude that denies the sovereignty of God and can lead to bitterness. In essence, complaining not only leaves God out but believes there is no solution, only gloom and doom. The core is unbelief.
The word grumble means to murmur, to be obstinate in a permanent sense. In the Old Testament, people grumbled against the Lord. They didn’t like His provision of manna. They grumbled against Moses, were obstinate, rebellious, and stiff-necked. In the New Testament, some grumbled against Jesus.
God’s response in Numbers 14:27 is definitive, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.”
Could it be that all grumbling is really against God?
But what about lamenting? To lament means to wail or mourn, literally to tear the hair and beat the breast. It can be a dirge where a person even beats on instruments as he groans or cries aloud.
Why is lamenting different than complaining or grumbling? While, there is also heartfelt emotion with lamenting, the difference is that it recognizes and includes God in the trial. Listen to Lamentations 3:2-12 as Jeremiah laments and then notice what follows.
“He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day. He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, He has broken my bones. He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship. In dark places He has made me dwell, like those who have long been dead. He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked. He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in secret places. He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces; He has made me desolate. He bent His bow and set me as a target for the arrow. He made the arrows of His quiver to enter into my inward parts.”
Perhaps, you can relate to “feeling” like this, maybe even now. Clearly, there is nothing wrong with appropriate expression of genuine emotion.
If all Jeremiah was doing was grumbling, it would be one thing but before the chapter is over, even though he is out of sorts and spent with emotion, he recalls something significant that makes ALL the difference. Read on.
In a sudden epiphany, in Lamentations 3:21-25, he continues, “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.”
Do you see the difference? Grumbling/complaining ends with no hope; Lamenting ends in belief, hope, and strong affirmation of truth about God’s sovereignty. Be sure to note that the hope is in God, not in the situation, not in change, just in God and His faithfulness. He knows God will come through.
In all that God does, we can know with certainty that, as we walk by faith, He will always accomplish His purpose. Lamentations 2:17 affirms, “The Lord has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old….”
Lamenting allows for hope, encouragement and comfort in times of distress.
Psalm 27:13 David laments, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.”