Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy (2) - Bring Your Complaint

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

Big Idea: In lament, God invites us to bring our complaints.



A monk joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. After the first 10 years his superior called him in and asked, "Do you have anything to say?" The monk replied, "Food bad." After another 10 years the monk again had opportunity to voice his thoughts. He said, "Bed hard." Another 10 years went by and again he was called in before his superior. When asked if he had anything to say, he responded, "I quit." "It doesn't surprise me a bit. You've done nothing but complain ever since you got here."
Source Unknown.
Element Two of Biblical Lament is bringing our complaint.
Though this illustration is humorous, complaining is rarely humorous and is often rooted in sin.
However, as we continue to examine scripture and this idea of lament, we are confronted with the very topic of complaint.


Lament involves Four Key Elements
An address to God (Turn)
A complaint (Complain)
A request (Ask)
An expression of trust and/or praise (Trust)


Big Idea: In lament, God invites us to bring our complaints.
Bring Your Questions
Bring Your Frustrations
Complain the Right Way

Sermon Body

Big Idea: In lament, God invites us to bring our complaints.
Psalm 142:1-2.
Psalm 142:1–2 ESV
1 With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. 2 I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
John Piper notes...
To live in this age is to frequently experience trouble. We are troubled within and we are troubled without. Our troubles span the spectrum of trivial to traumatic. And these various kinds of troubles — James calls them trials (James 1:2) — are to be expected. We are not to be surprised by them (1 Peter 4:12).
And to help us faithfully endure these troubles, God gave us a very precious gift: psalms of lament. The Psalms are the prayers and hymns that God chose to teach us how to express ourselves to him in worship. They are God's word and the prayers of men, as Bonhoeffer says. And about one-third of them are laments.
In these laments the writer pours out to God his sorrow (Psalm 137), anger (Psalm 140), fear (Psalm 69), longing (Psalm 85), confusion (Psalm 102), desolation (Psalm 22), repentance (Psalm 51), disappointment (Psalm 74), or depression (Psalm 88) either because of external evil or internal evil or darkness.
One thing this implies is that God expects us to frequently experience pain and therefore frequently express our pain to him. God wants us to pour out our complaints to him and tell him our troubles (Psalm 142:2). He wants us to do it privately, like David did when he wrote Psalm 142 in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22). And he wants us to do it corporately, as when the people of Israel would sing Psalm 142 together. He wants us to tell him exactly what it feels like (“no one cares for my soul,” Psalm 142:4). And he wants us to remember that despite how things look and feel right now, because of his very great promises (2 Peter 1:4), someday these troubles will no longer afflict us (“you will deal bountifully with me,” Psalm 142:7).


After we turn to God in prayer, next is bringing our complaints.
Tension exits here.
Complain is not a very positive word.
com•plain \kəm-ˈplān\ intransitive verb
[Middle English compleynen, from Middle French complaindre, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin complangere, from Latin com- + plangere to lament — more at plaint]
(14th century)
1 : to express grief, pain, or discontent
2 : to make a formal accusation or charge
Often, when we think of complaint, we think of things like Jonah.
What do you remember of the story of Jonah? (Call on young persons)
Jonah 4.
Jonah 4 ESV
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Why is Jonah mad? What is his stated reason for running in the opposite direction of Nineveh?
He did not want God to save the people.
He was mad AT God for being merciful and gracious and sparing a people he wanted to see destroyed.
This is what we often think about when we think about complaint.
BUT, Pastor Mark asks….Is complaining always wrong?
It can’t be. For in the Psalms, we see lament, complaint. In the Psalms you will find sorrow, fear, frustration, even confusion. These Psalms were set to song and sung by the congregations.
However, do not mistake the point of Jonah. His example does NOT reveal a permission to be angry WITH God.
This is NOT permission to vent self-centered rage at God. We NEVER have the right to be angry with God.
Why is it NEVER right to direct our anger TOWARDS God?
Because to direct our anger against God is to accuse Him of wrong doing which he is not capable of.
It is to declare that God is in the wrong and has rightfully wronged you. And this cannot be.
There are typically two camps of walking through suffering – Anger or Denial.
Biblical lament offers an alternative. Through godly complaint, we are able to express our disappointment and move toward a resolution.
Lament is the language of a people who believe in God’s Sovereignty but who live in a world with trouble and tragedy.
We need to learn how to complain the right way.

Bring Your Questions

Psalm 10:1
Psalm 10:1 ESV
1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Two questions exist in this verse....
Why do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself?
Both questions ask the same thing in parallel ways. Questions that haunt many a person.
God seems removed.
God seems actively disinterested.
When have you felt like this?
“When was the last time you felt like this? I’m sure you know not only the pain of suffering but also the struggle with God’s seeming remoteness. I think every believer can relate to this at some point in his or her life. The lament psalms teach us that these feelings should not be dismissed as invalid or sinful. They are part of the journey—an aspect of genuine faith.” Mark Vroegop
Philip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment with God details the following story. He had interacted with a graduate student who wrote a book on suffering from the book of Job. Just before it went to print, the man came to Yancey and confessed he no longer believed what he wrote. 3 years later, Richard and Yancey would once again meet and Richard would relate the following story describing where the journey of his faith’s death began.
“Even back then I was searching for hard evidence of God as an alternative to faith. And one day I found it — on television, of all places. While randomly flipping a dial, I came across a mass healing service being conducted by Kathryn Kuhlman. I watched for a few minutes as she brought various people up on the stage and interviewed them. Each one told an amazing story of supernatural healing. Cancer, heart conditions, paralysis — it was like a medical encyclopedia up there.
“As I watched Kuhlman’s program, my doubts gradually melted away. At last I had found something real and tangible. Kuhlman asked a musician to sing her favorite song, ‘He Touched Me.’ That’s what I needed, I thought: a touch, a personal touch from God. She held out that promise, and I lunged for it.
“Three weeks later when Kathryn Kuhlman came to a neighboring state, I skipped classes and traveled half a day to attend one of her meetings. The atmosphere was unbelievably charged — soft organ music in the background; the murmuring sound of people praying aloud, some in strange tongues; and every few minutes a happy interruption when someone would stand and claim, ‘I’m healed!’
“One person especially made an impression, a man from Milwaukee who had been carried into the meeting on a stretcher. When he walked — yes, walked — onstage, we all cheered wildly. He told us he was a physician, and I was even more impressed. He had incurable lung cancer, he said, and was told he had six months to live. But now, tonight, he believed God had healed him. He was walking for the first time in months. He felt great. Praise God! “
I wrote down the man’s name and practically floated out of that meeting. I had never known such certainty of faith before. My search was over; I had seen proof of a living God in those people on the stage. If he could work tangible miracles in them, then surely he had something wonderful in store for me. “
I wanted contact with the man of faith I had seen at the meeting, so much so that exactly one week later I phoned Directory Assistance in Milwaukee and got the physician’s number. When I dialed it, a woman answered the phone. ‘May I please speak to Dr. S​,’ I said.
“Long silence. ‘Who are you?’ she said at last. I figured she was just screening calls from patients or something. I gave my name and told her I admired Dr. S​ and had wanted to talk to him ever since the Kathryn Kuhlman meeting. I had been very moved by his story, I said.
“Another long silence. Then she spoke in a flat voice, pronouncing each word slowly. ‘My . . . husband . . . is . . . dead.’ Just that one sentence, nothing more, and she hung up.
“I can’t tell you how that devastated me. I was wasted. I half-staggered into the next room, where my sister was sitting. ‘Richard, what’s wrong?’ she asked. ‘Are you all right?’
“No, I was not all right. But I couldn’t talk about it. I was crying. My mother and sister tried to pry some explanation out of me. But what could I tell them? For me, the certainty I had staked my life on had died with that phone call. A flame had flared bright for one fine, shining week and then gone dark, like a dying star.”
Richard stared into his coffee cup. Marimba music playing in the background sounded tinny and jarringly loud. “I don’t quite understand,” I said. “That happened long before you went to Wheaton and got a theology degree and wrote a book — ”
“Yeah, but it all started back then,” he interrupted. “Everything that followed — Wheaton, the book on Job, the Bible study groups — was a grasping attempt to prove wrong what I should have learned from that one phone call. Nobody’s out there, Philip. And if by some chance God does exist, then he’s toying with us. Why doesn’t he quit playing games and show himself?”
This story is all too familiar.
The questions of God’s interest, closeness, and love…all too often the focus of scrutiny.
In fact, Yancey boils down these questions to three basic inquiries.
Is God unfair? Richard had tried to follow God, but his life fell apart anyway. He could not reconcile his miseries with the biblical promises of rewards and happiness. And what about the people who openly deny God yet prosper anyway? This is an old complaint, as old as Job and the Psalms, but it remains a stumbling block to faith.
Is God silent? Three times, as he faced crucial choices in his education, career, and romance, Richard begged God for clear direction. Each time he thought he had God’s will figured out, only to have that choice lead to failure. “What kind of Father is he?” Richard asked. “Does he enjoy watching me fall on my face? I was told that God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life. Fine. So why doesn’t he tell me what that plan is?”
Is God hidden? This question, above all, obsessed Richard. It seemed to him an irreducible minimum, a theological bottom line, that God should somehow prove himself: “How can I have a relationship with a Person I’m not even sure exists?” Yet it seemed that God deliberately hid himself, even from people who sought him out. And when Richard’s late-night vigil provoked no response, he simply gave up on God.
Lament gives a platform for bringing our questions to God. Questions loaded with emotional pain. We ought not be scared to bring them. The scriptures are littered with examples of them.
Lament Psalms teach us that these feelings should not be dismissed as invalid or sinful. They are part of the journey to genuine faith.
In spite of that, Pastor Mark asks....
“Does this make you at all uncomfortable? It should. The psalmist is basically telling God that he feels as if God is not being God-like.” Mark Vroegop
Life seems unfair.
Course this depends on your definition of fair
But from the human standpoint, at times, life DOES seem unfair and we often have to endure the hurt and pain caused BY others.
The lack of consequences for people’s offenses can be maddening.
Psalm 73.
Complaint gives voice to our hard questions.
Scripture gives voice to two types of questions. WHY and HOW.

Why Questions

Psalm 22:1.
Psalm 22:1 ESV
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Psalm 44:23-24
Psalm 80:12
Psalm 88:14.
Why questions look for explanations and justifications for the REASONS that the suffering exist; why it is permitted to continue.

How Questions

Psalm 13:1-2.
Psalm 13:1–2 ESV
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 35:17
Psalm 74:10
Psalm 94:3
Psalm 137:4.
How questions seem to focus on length of suffering and the hope of release or on the means by which we endure
These Psalms give us permission to lay out our struggles, even if they are with God Himself.
Further, we are invited to bring our frustrations.

Bring Your Frustrations

There is something helpful and right about regularly laying out the specifics of our pain.
The Psalmist does this in verses 2-11.
Psalm 10:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-9, 10, 11.
Psalm 10:2–11 ESV
2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. 3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. 4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” 5 His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. 6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” 7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. 8 He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 9 he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. 10 The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. 11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
The Psalmist turns his powerless position into a platform to call out to God. His blunt complaint is an opportunity to redirect his heart.
He catalogues each complaint, each burden, each grievance that he has. He lays the before the feet of God.
Truth is, this life affords many opportunities to have grievances and hurts.
Sorrow abounds.
God is large enough to handle it.
In fact, God invites us to cast those burdens up him.
Psalm 55:22.
Psalm 55:22 ESV
22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
1 Peter 5:6-7.
1 Peter 5:6–7 ESV
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
It is ok to bring our questions and grievances to God.
The challenge, as we will see, is what do we do those questions and grievances…the questions is where the presentation of our complaints will lead us.
Some days I would list in a journal everything that was troubling me. My practice was to write out a list of complaints and then to talk to God about them. I found that pain made me myopic. It tended to narrow my focus on the sorrow that took over my life. Nothing else mattered. At least it felt that way. With this desperation for relief, it was easy to become preoccupied with the weight of sorrow, the unfairness of life, or the fear of never being happy again. Left unchecked, this could create a self-focused emotional spiral. But as I wrote out my complaints and talked to the Lord about them, it was surprising how they lost their hold on me. Sometimes I even found myself laughing at the silly things I listed. Complaint helped me see myself and my situation more clearly. Since then I’ve made it a regular practice to talk to God more quickly about my questions and frustrations.
Mark Voergop
For me, this understanding of lament (and where it ought to lead) began July 21 in my morning reading of Psalm 69. I noted...
Reading in Psalm 69 today, I am reminded of the power and import of lament. David’s Psalm of lament poured out his despair to your listening ear.
It’s always easy in periods of sorrow to pour that sorrow out. Perhaps this is why it is so helpful. Lament gives a necessary outlet to sorrow.
But David turns it to praise as easily as he laments. He worship as easily as he grieves.
This is what I must do more often and better.
It is easy to get swallowed up in sorrow and want to do nothing more.
Thank you for David and His example.
Forgive my failure to worship. Forgive the self pity that so often consumes me.
Let my heart worship you.
I began reading Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, ten days later. Pretty sure this insight and meditation motivated me to begin the book that had sat in my library for months.
Lament HAS A PLACE but it must be done in the RIGHT WAY and kept in PROPER place.

Complain the Right Way

Hebrews 4:14-16.
Hebrews 4:14–16 ESV
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Big Idea: In lament, God invites us to bring our complaints.
BUT HOW exactly are we to come so that we do not repeat the error of Jonah?

Come Humble

Proud hearts believe they are owed something
1 Peter 5:5.
1 Peter 5:5 ESV
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6.
James 4:6 ESV
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
WHENEVER we come before God, we MUST come in a posture of humility.
God is God. And we are Not.
Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “God is God.” In it, he writes…
And the pain falls like a curtain On the things I once called certain And I have to say the words I fear the most I just don't know
And the questions without answers Come and paralyze the dancer So I stand here on the stage afraid to move Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust
God is God and I am not I can only see a part of the picture He's painting God is God and I am man So I'll never understand it all For only God is God
And the sky begins to thunder And I'm filled with awe and wonder 'Til the only burning question that remains Is who am I
Can I form a single mountain Take the stars in hand and count them Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me He is first and last before all that has been Beyond all that will pass
Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things
So let us worship before the throne Of the One who is worthy of worship alone
Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman
This is an example of heart that recognizes its rightful place before God. This is the heart of contentment, even joy in that place.
Is this an easy place to always live? No. But it is the right place.
When you bring your complaints to God....COME HUMBLY.

Pray the Bible

Find protection in the biblical boundaries of scripture.
Pray back your arsenal.
Walk through my own arsenal in the back of my journaling bible.
Do you pray back the truths and promises of God in your lament?

Be Honest

God understands your struggle (Hebrews 4:15)
Hebrews 4:15 ESV
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Listen, God already knows anyway. Trying to deceive him will not work and will not be met with anything but resistance.

Don’t Just Complain

You were not meant to get stuck here. It is not an end to itself. If you never move past complaint, lament loses its power. Complaint is meant to move us toward God.
Lament is meant to lead to praise
Lament is meant to lead to trust
Lament is meant to lead to rejoicing.
Lament is meant to lead to worship.


Big Idea: In lament, God invites us to bring our complaints.
Bring Your Questions
Bring Your Frustrations
Complain the Right Way
As you lament, bring your questions, bring your frustrations. Offer them to God. But so so humbly, in prayer offer back the word, be honest, and be careful that you do not get stuck here.
As we learn to lament, I pray that we are growing together to become more like Jesus for the glory of God.


Before reading this chapter, what was your perspective on complaining to God?
Why is complaint a central element of lament?
Lament is not lament if we do not lay out that which grieves and trouble us. Lament, by its very definition is that of laying out grievances and sorrows.
What was surprising about the why and how questions in the Psalms? What was comforting and encouraging about the list?
What are some reasons Christians are reluctant to voice their complaints to God in prayer?
Feels wrong to complain to God/Feels sinful.
Their anger is WITH God.
Don’t know that God invites us to do so.
Don’t know how to do in a right way.
How is complaining the right way spiritually helpful?
It acknowledges the hurt, sorrow, and grief that comes from living in a sin cursed world.
It causes us to look beyond this life and this world for hope, help, and assistance.
It presses us back to the truths and promises of scripture.
It validates that the emotions God has given to us and exposes that something indeed is wrong and causes us to look for hope in God.
Make a list of the kinds of complaints you’ve offered or should have offered to the Lord.
Take some time to thank the Lord for allowing us to be honest with him.
When is complaint sinful and wrong?
When it does not lead us to repentance, faith, trust, and worship.
When we get stuck there and our hearts stop giving thanks.
Is there a complaint that you need to humbly offer to the Lord today?
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more