The Truth About Complaining: Thoughts On Job 6 & 7

IMG-1550

 

“I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness.” 

Uh…okaaay.

These words could actually have been mine.

But they aren’t.

They’re Job’s and they’re recorded for us in chapter 7, verse 11.

In my NLT, verse 5 in chapter 6 reads, “Don’t I have a right to complain?”

Uh…yeah. Like I said. This is soooo me.

Job asked this question after he patiently endured his friend’s assessment of his present suffering.

I admit.

I’m a reforming complainer.

I’m not proud of it.

I’m learning to do better. Be better.

To redeem myself, I’d like to think I can say like Job even in the complaining,

“I have not denied the words of the the Holy One.”

I think our personalities have a lot to do with how we respond to trials.

In all honesty, sometimes I just need to vent. This is how my personality is wired.

I just want to release my emotions or express my thoughts.

Sometimes I just want someone to listen and I’m not sure I even want them to respond.

I’m not saying complaining is okay.

It’s not a godly thing.

It can look pretty ugly.

It can hurt people.

Even push them away.

Worse, it can hurt my relationship with God.

Because whining, grumbling, and complaining is just a lack of trust in the Sovereignty of God.

A few years ago, as I was studying for a message I was to speak for a woman’s conference, I found something in Scripture that changed the way I thought of complaining.

So many times we experience toxic emotions because we’ve not been able to make peace with the fact that life hasn’t turned out the way we planned. Whether we’ve been betrayed, treated unfairly, lived through unspeakable acts of cruelty, walked through the fire or survived the flood, we forget that God still wants to get in the midst of it with us.

Because if we don’t let Him help us root out those toxic emotions it carries over, it festers and spreads, to other areas of our lives and we don’t even realize how angry and bitter we’ve become.

I’m sure you remember the story of the miraculous parting of the Red Sea in Exodus.

The Lord delivered His people by parting the waters so they could escape the Egyptians by crossing over on dry land. He parted those waters Himself and allowed every single one of the Israelites to cross over in safety. They saw God close the waters over their enemies and witnessed with their very own eyes the dead bodies on the shore. They sang a beautiful song of praise to the Lord and worshiped Him for His greatness.

But it wasn’t enough for them.

Three measly days later, the Israelites forgot God’s great power.

They came to a place in the wilderness called Marah where the water was so bitter they couldn’t drink it. Marah means bitter and all they could think about was how thirsty they were and how inconvenienced they were. They began grumbling, whining, and complaining against Moses. Instead of remembering what God had done at the Red Sea, they wanted to run back to Egypt…the very symbol of all that was wrong with their lives.

Moses cried out to the Lord on their behalf and God told him to do something very strange. He told Moses to throw a log into the water and miraculously the water became sweet. They were able to drink to their hearts’ content.

So, the Israelites witnessed yet another miracle.

After God gave the Israelites that saving, sweet water at Marah, He led them to a beautiful oasis called Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees. They camped there by the water and refreshed themselves.

This blows my mind: In spite of their whining and complaining, God still blessed them and what did they do with His blessing?

Exodus 16:1-3 tells us they started whining and grumbling against Moses and Aaron again.

I looked up the Hebrew word for grumbled in my Blue Letter Bible online. It means, to stop (usually over night): by implication, to stay permanently; hence to be obstinate (especially in words), to complain; to abiding (all night), continue, dwell, endure, grudge.

Do you get the picture?!?

I got to thinking…over and over again in Scripture, God calls His people stubborn, rebellious and stiff-necked.

They were never satisfied because they focused more on what was wrong with their lives and not with what was right. And they just plain got stuck there. 

It wasn’t enough that God miraculously delivered them from Egypt–never mind that He had brought all those plagues against their oppressors to prove Himself. It wasn’t enough that He had parted the Red Sea and drowned all their enemies. It wasn’t enough that He had sweetened the water at Marah and given them an oasis at Elim.

There were stuck in their whining, their grumbling, and their complaining. They may have been delivered from the Egyptians, but they were still oppressed by the hardness of their hearts.

That’s what happens when we get stuck in our complaining. We don’t just make ourselves miserable. We make everyone else around us miserable, too.

I’ve seen it in my own life. How my complaining has made the people I love miserable.

It’s toxic. I don’t want to be known as a bitter person. I don’t want to be remembered as a  whiner. I don’t want God to say of me what He said of the Israelites, She’s stubborn, rebellious, stiff-necked. 

I don’t want to forget all the good and wonderful works God has done in my life. I don’t want to question His Sovereignty by dwelling on things that are so far from the truth of Who He is.

And so often, what flies out of my mouth is far from what’s really true, yet…

I so get Job.

“I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness.”

Job said it.

I’ve felt it.

The musts.

The need to speak.

Like if I keep it bottled up I’ll just explode!

But I’m letting God change me. Change how I see my circumstances, change how I respond to the bad things that happen in life, change how I relate to God in seasons of hard things.

Because He knows me better than I know myself.

He knows what I need to hear and I don’t want to deny His words.

He speaks truth because He is Truth.

So even though I’m pretty sure my complaining isn’t pleasing to Him, I think He’d rather me vent to Him than someone else.

And you know what? There’s something about taking it all to God that puts me in my place. I may think I have a right to complain, but God is after my heart. He doesn’t want me to get stuck. He doesn’t want me to dwell in misery.

God has this way of revealing the heart of the matter and it’s this: I’ve taken my eyes off Him and I’m not trusting Him to be God.

There is so much more that’s right with my life than what’s wrong. And what’s right is that God has never let me down. He has parted seas for me, sweetened bitter waters, given me rivers in the desert and streams in the wasteland. What He’s done in the past He will do in the present and in the days to come.

Somehow taking it all to Him puts my focus back where it belongs and the truth of who He is will silence my complaints Every. Single.Time.

Uh…okaaay God.

Okay.

 

Faith, Faith Journey, Faithful Followers, Faithful God, God is Trustworthy

How To Be A True Encourager: Thoughts On Job 4 & 5

Encouraging others is something we need more of in this broken, messy world of ours, but it’s not always something we give freely or receive gracefully.

Some of us are gifted encouragers. And I do believe it’s a gift. We know just what to say and how to say it.

Some of us mean well. And I do believe we have the heart. We just don’t always know how to express ourselves well.

And then there are some who just don’t seem to have a clue. Like, are you even on the same planet?

One of the things that I can say about Job’s 3 friends: They came when Job needed them most. They showed up. They wailed loudly, tore their robes, and threw dust in the air over their heads to express their grief over all the terrible things that had happened to their friend.

And then they sat on the ground with Job for 7 days and 7 nights and said not one, single word because they saw Job’s suffering was too great for words.

Gosh. Those are what I call true friends.

But then, Job began to talk. To share his heart. And I guess his friends just didn’t like what was pouring out of his mouth. Instead of hearing a man who was deep in grief and living out an absolute nightmare, they heard a man who didn’t sound anything like the wise friend they’d always known.

I can’t help but wonder…did it frighten them?

Bless their hearts, they had started out so well.

I love that Job’s friend, Eliphaz, saw Job as an encourager.

“In the past you have encouraged many a troubled soul to trust in God; you have supported those who were weak. Your words have strengthened the fallen; you steadied those who wavered.” Job 4:3-4

Job cared about people.

But what happens when the encourager needs encouraging?

It’s just so sad Job’s friends weren’t as gifted at encouraging as Job.

Eliphaz says some really cool things about God that are true,

“He does great works too marvelous to understand…

He performs miracles without number…

He gives rain for the earth…

He gives prosperity to the poor and humble…”

but he didn’t have a lot of sympathy for his friend.

Even though he knew what kind of man Job was he still assumed Job needed correcting.

That all Job’s suffering was because Job had sinned.

While it’s certainly true God will bandage what He wounds, He will heal what He strikes, He will rescue again and again,

He doesn’t attack us the way Satan attacked Job.

Eliphaz wasn’t seeing Job and His circumstances through God’s eyes.

I thought, Hmmmmmm….

Sometimes I may have all the right words, but I’m misguided in my assumptions.

If I’m not mindful, I can be like Eliphaz.

I won’t have eyes to see.

Ears to hear.

A heart to understand.

Truthfully? None of Job’s friends had walked in his shoes.

They couldn’t empathize, but if they’d asked God for a heart like His they could’ve sympathized.

They could’ve spoken from God’s heart instead of their limited understanding.

They would’ve seen what God really saw in Job…a humble, righteous man of complete integrity and they would’ve sought to encourage him the way Job encouraged others.

This is what I hope for…to see the suffering as God sees them.

To look deep.

To encourage a troubled soul.

To support the weak.

To strengthen the fallen.

To steady the wavered.

‘Cause even if I haven’t walked in their shoes, I can have a heart that truly cares.

So can you.

With God’s help, I believe we can all be encouragers. Whether we cry along with a hurting friend or just sit in silence, sometimes our presence is the greatest gift.

But when we open our mouths to speak I believe God can give us words of truth, words to inspire, words to comfort, words to uplift and words to spark courage when needed.

I believe that.

Because it’s a gift.

Straight from the heart of God.

All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Cor 1:3 &4

 

 

Faith, faith journey, faithful followers, grace, mercy, comfort of God, encourage one another, lift one another up, positive words, gift of God, comfort in suffering