We each have various sources of hardship and frustration in our lives. It might be a boss or a co-worker. It might be a tone of voice or an annoying habit from your spouse or child or parent or sibling or friend. It might be a deep unmet desire, like the desire to be married.
Whatever the frustration, how often do you find yourself attempting to obey God while muttering and murmuring about the hardship? How often is there a hitch in your obedience, or an edge to your obedience, or self-pity in your obedience? It’s like we say to ourselves, I will do the right thing, but there will be enough reluctance and grumbling accompanying my obedience that everyone will know what it’s costing me.
Now some of us grumble directly about God. “Why is he doing this to me?” Or we grumble about our circumstances, conveniently “forgetting” the truth that nothing comes into our lives except by his hand. Others of us grumble about people. We disguise our complaints against God by focusing them on the people around us. And we have all sorts of rationalizations for this. “I’m not grumbling about God; I’m just being honest about the failures and sins of other people.”
This is precisely where we must press. It is important to distinguish faithful groaning from ungodly grumbling, lamenting from sulking. Groaning and lamenting can be good and right. They can be faithful responses to real pain. So what distinguishes them from grumbling and sinful complaining? Often, it’s honesty. Do we take the pain to God directly, or does it come out sideways, as complaints about God’s wisdom disguised as observations about other people?
The key question here is: where does the pain go? Do you bring it to God, as part of offering yourself totally to him? Or does it simmer on a low-boil in your soul, and come out in a frustrated service and sulky obedience?