What Is The Difference Between Lamenting And Complaining

What Is The Difference Between Lamenting And Complaining

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.” On average, we complain a few dozen times each day. Our complaints can span the serious to the frivolous. Chronic complaining harms our mental and physical health, and damages our relationships. Listening to the complaints of others can be emotionally and physically draining. Complaining is an expression of powerlessness. It discloses what unmet expectations we have. It reveals an unthankful heart. No wonder God commands us to do everything without grumbling or complaining. (Philippians 2) If we doubt whether God takes complaining seriously, we should remember how He punished the Israelites after their exile from Egyptian slavery when they repeatedly grumbled against Aaron and Moses. (Exodus 16 and Numbers 14)


Yet lamentations are common throughout the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 6, “Lord my God … save and deliver me from all who pursue me … Vindicate me, Lord … Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.” In Psalm 10, “Call the evildoer to account for his wickedness.” In Psalm 13, “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” In Psalm 43, “Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.” One book of the Old Testament is even titled “Lamentations”!


How can lamenting be godly, but complaining sinful? How are lamenting and complaining different? At its root, complaining declares that God is not sufficiently good, faithful, loving, wise, or powerful. When we complain, we are passing judgment on God’s rule and reign over His created world. When we complain we are essentially saying that if God were as good as advertised, then He would treat us better or run the universe more to our liking. There was no more heartfelt and agonizing lament than Jesus’ words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27) A sinful complainer at the cross might have cried out “why has God forsaken me?” or “see how God has forsaken me.”


When Christians lament, we are expressing our suffering and the suffering of others because of sin in a fallen world. But unlike self-centered complaining, a godly prayer of lament shows that we know God is sovereign, good, omnipotent, and His lovingkindness is everlasting. Prayers of laments in Scripture often progress from one’s current negative circumstances to a hopeful future; from sorrow to joy; from fear to trust. Godly laments demonstrate faith and take comfort in knowing that Christ will judge sin in His way and in His time. Prayers of lament show that our ultimate hope is that God will renew and restore all creation.


Godly laments are prayers where we bring our deepest fears, our heartfelt concerns, and our overwhelming griefs to our Heavenly Father. We are honest about our pain and our sorrows. Then we boldly ask for God’s grace to help us, save us, and rescue us from the wickedness bearing down on us. At its root, lamentation prayers trust in God and praise Him for who He is. Godly prayers of lament are an opportunity to renew our confidence in our Lord in times of pain, anguish and despair. If we wonder whether it’s OK to prayerfully lament, remember we are commanded to cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5) If we have any cares or worries, we should bring them to our Heavenly Father instead of merely complaining to others who probably don’t want to hear our gripes anyway.