When Why Becomes Whine

“Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11

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When trouble hits one of our first responses is usually to cry out “Why, God?” Even though Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV), we never quite apply that to ourselves in any literal sense. (Okay maybe you do—I’ll speak for myself.) Sometimes we feel that we have already had our fair distribution of troubles, as if there is a quota system. Then when one trouble piles atop another, why often masks what’s really in our heart: “It’s not fair!”

How does God take us asking the why question? Are we allowed? Does he expect us to just silently bear our cross? Will he give us extra brownie points for smiling big and saying to our friends “Praise the Lord anyhow”? Some heavy hitters in the Bible didn’t suffer in silence though, did they?

Job springs to mind immediately. “Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11) How could Job say such a thing and yet God condemned Job’s friends—not him—with these words: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)

Then there is David. David could certainly never be accused of holding his tongue through his troubles. He poured out his whole soul profusely to God in whatever troubles came his way. “O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.” (Psalm 22:2) Yet God called David a man after his own heart. (See Acts 13:22)

God is never offended or shocked by our honest emotion. We can always ask God “why” without fear that he will reject us. Our questions may even be to our advantage as we work things through. We need to offload our strong emotions rather than stuff them deep down where they can fester and damage our soul. We need to examine our circumstance and admit it if we have opened a door that led to our own troubles. Our “whys” can also help us see our troubles from the perspective of the way God is ultimately working them for our good. (See Romans 8:28)

Does a time come however, when why must be cut off? Told to take a hike? Laid to permanent rest? Yes. Why goes too far when it turns to whining, which unfortunately can happen in the blink of an eye. Shall I confess how I know this? I’ve done my share of whining over time and I’m embarrassed to tell you it’s not a pretty sight. As much as I despised it in my own children when they tried it, I haven’t always spared my Heavenly Father the very same obnoxious behavior.

How can you tell when why turns to whining? No longer are you just honestly acknowledging grief or anguish or shock or sadness but now other destructive emotions and thoughts try to tag along. Self-pity is quick to jump on the bandwagon. Comparison to others who are not saddled with any of the troubles you are springs up. A sense of entitlement that you don’t deserve what has happened starts sprouting.

The outcome of these add-ons is the erosion of two things you cannot live successfully without: faith and trust. David and Job and all the others who honestly spoke their mind to God never forgot that. David sang God’s praises and proclaimed his faithfulness as often as he lamented his troubles. Job rightly said this: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed by the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

When troubles inevitably come into your life you do not need to bite your tongue. You do not need to pretend that you’re on such a high spiritual mountain none of it bothers you. Go ahead and cry out to the Lord all that is honestly on your heart. Get it off your chest so it doesn’t sink down into your soul to plant seeds of bitterness.

Why is okay but whine is not.


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