“Do you really have to gripe as much as you do!?”
I joined the 7:00 AM Men’s Zoom Group Tuesday morning and they were reading Psalm 70. Verse 5 reads:
I am afflicted and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.
David is the author of this psalm and he is in trouble and cries out to God for help. One man on the Zoom call asked the question, “Why is David always crying out to God for help. Is God doing this to him?” I took him to mean, “Is God causing all this hassle for David, or what’s going on?” We talked about a few things and then Robert, an elder in our church and the leader of this group, said something that really struck me as quite profound. He said. “Isn’t it amazing that so many people in the Bible who could have griped and complained about all the garbage in their lives, didn’t.” I thought, “Wow, that’s right.” This doesn’t mean that no one in the Bible complained about their lot in life. Job was full of complaint, and the people in the wilderness griped and moaned to the Lord, and the Psalms have their fair share of complaint. Yet so many who could have filled heaven with bitterness and disappointment did not do so.
If anybody in the Bible had a legitimate right to complain it was Joseph. He was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, unjustly accused of sexual sin, thrown into prison and forgotten. He deserved none of it and yet experienced all of it. If anyone could speak out against God Who is supposed to love His own, it was Joseph. But Joseph had such a vision of God, was so connected to God, was so soaked in God that he trusted God all the way through and clung to Him through all the insult, injury, and injustice. After years of unjust suffering and intense rejection, God promoted him to the Number-Two-Man in Egypt, just below Pharaoh. When he finally met up with his brothers who had him into slavery and kick-started years of misery, he said this to them –
“Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45:4-8
I think that, after Jesus Christ, Joseph is the most beautiful person in the Bible. He basically said, “What I know about God makes it impossible for me to complain. I know that God will be faithful to His promises.” Look at his hold on God in the passage above. He says, “ You sold me, but God sent me before you to preserve you. You didn’t send me here, God did.”
Likewise, God may send you through sorrow and through heartache and through trial, trouble, and tribulation. Yet God’s hand remains upon you. You may be sent through bruising and brokenness. Yet God’s hand remains upon you. People may use and abuse you, but you remain sent by God. The sin of others against you cannot remove the hand of God from you. Joseph didn’t allow the sin of man to blind him to the purpose and plan of God.
The Psalmist put it like this:
“Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip. For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:8-12
God brought Joseph into a place of abundance. Joseph could have written that Psalm.
You might ask, “Are you saying if I’m full of complaint and griping that I’m not trusting in God the way I should?” Well, since you asked, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I am glad we can gripe and complain to the Lord. Am I shaming or scolding you for griping and complaining? No. I’m just pointing you to a better way forward. I memorized Isaiah 26:3 in King James English – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, for he trusteth in Thee.”
Robert’s bigger point in his insight about complaining is that we look at a Bible character and are upset or outraged God could allow suffering to happen and we bristle. We take up an offense against God for allowing this Bible character to be treated in such a fashion. But that Bible character isn’t offended or upset or outraged because it happened. Their souls are kept in perfect peace.