I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah (Psalm 77:1–3)
There are a couple of ways to complain . . . at least! The one is bad and Scripture commands against it. Phil. 2:14, "Do all things without grumbling or questioning." I have fond memories of the sign back of our dorm room doors at Bob Jones University. One line read, "Griping will not be tolerated." By the way, that 's from the word "gripe" not "grip." (Perhaps there ought to be on Wall Street a sign about "No gripping" or grasping after money!?) . . . Anyway . . . The OTHER kind of complaining is illustrated in the above Psalm. Such "complaints" are found frequently throughout the Psalter and provide us with the life experience of the people of God. It's not always coming up roses, is it? "In the day of my trouble I seek the LORD." That's the key . . . I seek the LORD not just pity. But read on . . .
But you might be saying right now, "This is not what I think of as complaining." And you're right. But he is saying, "I am in trouble, my spirit is low; I'm fainting." It's a frank admission that all is not well. But my point in bringing this out (and what particularly struck me when reading it) is to draw a simple observation. There is an important distinction between complaining in the presence of others and complaining to God. Before others, I am just venting, expressing my displeasure at my situation with no real solution or hope of resolution in mind. But that is not the case with complaints to God. Complaining to God may indeed be a venting with no hope in mind. Initially. But when we issue complaints against God TO God, we set the table for our Lord to serve up the best of solutions. It puts our life-situation in the right forum, the forum where the sovereign and loving God works his will . . . an often unappreciated, but nevertheless, pure and godly will. When I complain before God, I am saying not only what I don't like, but admitting that I don't want to continue NOT liking it, and therefore, I am appealing to him to help me out.
I think this is something of what the Psalmist is doing here. Let us cast our complaints before the Lord in faith that he will help us handle it well, and that he will solve our dilemma. That beats by far just a lot of hate speech issued to others about our situations. Griping to others only exascerbates our situation, but complaints to God lay them out where they can be dealt with and resolved.
That's when complaining is helpful.