Monday, November 28, 2005

What, Me, Complain?

How do we complain so that God is brought into the process? Most often, God doesn’t enter into our process of complaining.

What is the boundary when we cross over into just plain whining?

Our goal is to be transformed in the midst of our trials,
James 1:2
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.

"The greatest insights on life are found at the center of pain." - Rick Warren

James 1:12
God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

"Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow." Goethe

“There are basically two sorts of folks on planet earth: “ulcer-givers” and “ulcer-getters.”” Bill Gillham

There seem to be 2 extremes:
1. Some people stuff it down and they experience depression and illness;
2. Others wear their heart on their sleeve. If they’re hurting they want everyone to know and even feel their pain, too. They’ll inflict their story on you so to speak.

Where is the middle ground? Picture laying your life, your issues, and your trials in the open before God. We usually say that we’ve prayed through our stuff, but in reality we haven’t prayed about it at all. All we’ve really done is to think about it and ruminate on it. And sought reinforcement from others that we’re on the right track in dealing with it our way. All the while we’ve never consciously prayed about it and sought God’s input.

Proverbs 21:1
The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he turns it wherever he pleases. People may think they are doing what is right, but the LORD examines the heart.

Notice verse 2 and what it says about our ideas of knowing what is right.

I want my heart to be like that mentioned in verse 1, a stream of water directed by God himself.

Jeremiah 17:9
"The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
There is a problem with my heart. There is a problem with your heart, too.

How do we get our eyes off of our thoughts and ourselves and get them onto God and his perspective? We can’t do that by shoving our issues down deep inside of ourselves.
Slowly, over time, little challenges with God are submerged. One day you awaken to find our self immensely angry with God. William Backus calls this ‘The Hidden Rift with God'.

What does the Bible say about complaining?

Let’s look at Exodus 16 and 17.
There was no food and the people complained. God sent manna. There was no variety and the people complained. God sent quail. There was no water and God sends water.

A pattern emerges:
1. God provides.
2. The people become discontent and grumble.
3. God sends his grace.

Let’s flip over to Numbers 16
The sons of Korah rebel against Moses. Verses 23-24
And the LORD said to Moses, "Then tell all the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."

God is serious about complaining. We are called to be a thankful people. This applies to all of us, myself included.

1 Corinthians 10:1-11
Recalling the wilderness wandering Paul says in verse 10,
"And don't grumble as some of them did, for that is why God sent his angel of death to destroy them."

Philippians 2:14
In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing.

Psalm 107:8-9
Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for all his wonderful deeds to them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

1 Kings 8:56
Praise the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses.

Psalm 88:13-18
O LORD, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.O LORD, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face away from me?I have been sickly and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have cut me off.They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have encircled me completely.You have taken away my companions and loved ones; only darkness remains.

There are more verses in the Psalms dedicated to complaining than praising. Can you believe that?

These are called the Psalms of Lament and they have a pattern.
1. Complaint
2. Request
3. Usually an expression of trust.

1. The Complaint

Now the complaint can range from being disappointed with his own actions, or for the direction of the world or perhaps feeling set up by God to take a fall.

Over time these situations erode our ability to trust God and we develop the hidden rift with God.

The most heartbreaking example of one of these is Matthew 27:46
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If Jesus can cry out like that, so can we.

Psalm 13
O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

Can you see the pattern? There is a complaint, followed by a request and then an expression of trust. The trust has nothing to do with feelings, but is all about obedience.

Psalm 62:8
O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 42:4-6 (sounds like we could be saying this as we go to church)
My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks--it was the sound of a great celebration!Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again--my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember your kindness-- from Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.

Psalm 142:1-2
I cry out to the LORD;I plead for the LORD's mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.

Pour out your heart in complaint. As I mentioned before, we haven’t usually prayed about stuff, we’ve thought about it. The Bible tells us to pour it out. Don’t edit it for god as if it’s a made-for-TV-movie. Don’t pretty it up, spill it forth. The word used can literally mean vomit it out, puke it up. Don’t be afraid, God can take it!

“And in the morning the poison drains away.”

That’s what happens when we learn to complain biblically. The pain drains away. Fear and anger are replaced with love and joy. Not instantaneously, but steadily as healing comes, forgiveness is found, repentance occurs and thankfulness pervades our soul. We are usually drawn to a ‘fight or flight’ response in the midst of difficulty.

We usually want what we want and we want others to want it! We stay stuck. Do your journals look and read the same year in and year out? Have you given up on journaling because all it does is regurgitate the past?

Do you keep spinning your tires looking for traction but you can’t find it?
Are you saying ‘I keep laying it before God and laying it before God and laying it before God.’ ‘Come and feel my pain with me!’

2. The Request

In Matthew 20, Mark 10 and Luke 18 a story is told about Jesus encountering 2 blind men. Jesus asks them what they want. Well, duh? Here is the movement from a complaint to a request.

The blind men needed to say what they wanted. They wanted 2 things:
1. to regain their sight.
2. to have their eyes opened.

It’s very easy for us to lose our perspective, as if we’re in a house full of distorted mirrors that are skewed towards our perspective.

“Don’t change me I just want to whine!” That’s essentially what we say if we won’t move off of our complaint and get to a request. We are essentially allowing god to have ‘veto’ power in our life.

There are some questions we have, some complaints that He never answers. Why doesn’t He answer these questions?
- Why didn’t you keep my parents from divorcing?
- Why didn’t you stop the abuse?
- Why didn’t you prevent the accident?

God will answer no such questions, no matter how passionately we ask. Instead, he invites us to weep with him and receive his mercy. Dan Allender

2 Samuel 7:7
“I have never once complained to Israel's leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, "Why haven't you built me a beautiful cedar temple?"'

Remember, our goal is to have a heart that is a channel of water that God directs.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Something rushes in to fill a hole. If we complain and stop without taking the next steps, we’ll just keep complaining!

3. The next step is an expression of trust.

Lord, I know that you’re here somewhere is sometimes our most honest expression.

Mark 9:24
"I do believe, but help me not to doubt!"

Honest expressions are always the best way to go.
Come as a child to God the father. Don’t come as a theologian, or as a counselor or as a pastor. The key is the trust dynamic. You can’t have a personal relationship with an idea. You have a personal relationship with a person, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.

How would a 4 year old express the idea that God is omnipotent (all powerful)?
God can do it.

How would that same 4 year old say that God is omnipresent?
God is here.

What does a child say about God being omniscient?
God you know everything, including my heart.

Exodus 3:7
"You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering.

God is aware of your suffering. He has not forgotten you.

Exodus 3:8
So I have come to rescue them…The cries of the people of CoHo have reached me
Do you believe that?

Isaiah 57:15
The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: "I live in that high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts.

Expression of trust lifts you up to a God’s eye view of reality.

"Faith is seeing from God’s perspective." - Rick Warren

Maxine Hancock says that in order to get there we need 3 things:
1. Recollect, or re collect our memories, our altars like we talked about last week.

2. Rehearse what we’ll say when trials strike us: “God I know that you’re here.”

Psalm 107:1
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

"I can't think of any time when I actually doubted the presence of the Lord. There were times, of course, when I felt somewhat discouraged, but I don't dwell on anything negative when it comes to my life. I think negative attitudes are very destructive, so I think positively and have hope in the future and in those people who are willing to live good lives and do the very best that they can to help themselves and other people." - Rosa Parks

3. Receive God’s gift of grace

Hebrews 4:16
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

With God’s help we need to write and continually rewrite Psalm 151.

Psalm 116:7-9
Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me.He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.And so I walk in the LORD's presence as I live here on earth!

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Lord with your help I will become more like me. Soren Kierkegaard

Psalm 29:10-11
The LORD rules over the floodwaters. The LORD reigns as king forever.The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.

Got a flood going on? Is God still the king?

1 Peter 5:6-11
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power is his forever and ever. Amen

As you keep your mind on this truth and praise Him for it, you'll be filled with hope—even when life is difficult.

The first group had a couple of spots open with Christmas With Style. Gord called the Women’s Emergency Shelter and explained that there was 2 openings. The first woman who showed up asked what was going on. Gord explained that she’s get to go to a salon & get a style, manicure, etc, and then go to the church to get a poinsettia, some clothes and other stuff. She burst into tears, explaining that she’s just came to town last night, and had all her clothes and possessions stolen. She woke up this morning and said “God, I know that you have something for me today.”

Blessed Be Your Name
I’ll find a way to say “Blessed Be Your Name”

In 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Bob Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he gave a curious response when the interviewer asked him if he was happy. He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. 'You know,' he said, 'these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed.'

Cindi Broaddus, A Random Act

Questions for reflection:

Do I ever complain, grumble or whine?

What would my responses to adversity reveal to those observing who don’t know Christ?

What would people around me learn about what it means to be a Christ follower by observing and experiencing my attitude?

Do people feel better or worse after an encounter with me? What is it like to be around me?

Do I ever complain to everyone around me instead of pouring out my frustrations and emotions to God in prayer and journaling?

Or do I keep it all bottled up until I eventually explode in anger and frustration?…

Or become passive-aggressive (irritable, sarcastic, avoiding, manipulative) with those around me?

Does my prayer life reflect trust in God’s sovereignty; peace in His presence, faith in His Word and the love of Jesus?

Can I pour my heart out to God? Do I know Him well enough to be transparent with Him? Or do I attempt to avoid Him or give Him a snow job about my real feelings?

Where might I need a bit of renovation of my heart? What do I need to acknowledge and praise God for?

How do I need to “bring God into the negative”? What are the tough, heartbreaking, frustrating issues in my life?

What do I need to give thanks for, even if I do not feel thankful?


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