Complain: To express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, resentment, or grief. We have a whole lot of synonyms for "complain" - words like grumble, growl, and whine. None of these words is entirely flattering, are they? In fact, each of them carries a little bit of a negative connotation. In most cases, when we enter into our "complaint" mode, we are protesting "against" something done, said, etc. Not surprisingly, the antonyms for complain are words like rejoice and celebrate. Today, we explore a passage in the Psalms where we are actually told it is "okay" to complain - as there are times when we "must" - but in so doing, we are to maintain an attitude of heart that keeps us from lashing out at others (and God).
Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for his verdict. (Psalms 4:4-5 MSG)
Of late, it has been hard to watch the physical and mental decline of my mother. She was such a strong woman, sharp to the tee mentally, until just before the holidays this year. In the past couple of months, I have watched a decline which we all knew was coming, but is never easy to face. Yep, I have grumbled a little, complained about it a little, and even been a little "whiny" on occasion. The changes aren't easy to deal with - nights without much sleep, explaining things over and over again only to find they don't remember it the next day, and the like. Most importantly, when I really put MY grumbling aside and began to see the situation through mom's eyes, I really understood the changes are the hardest for HER. They may present some adjustments for me, but they are life-altering for her.
What I have come to learn over the past many months is the need we all have of learning to let our hearts do the talking, and allowing our mouths to do a little less grumbling. Heart-talk is the kind of talk where we lay things out before God, recognizing we don't see them clearly until we do. Trust me, I have been doing a whole lot of heart talking these days. Lots and lots of time spent bringing things before God to get his perspective on the changes and just how I proceed best to meet the needs of the present circumstances. As a result, I get a clearer picture of what needs to be done to settle her worried heart, keep her safe when I cannot be with her, and to just help her enjoy what little time she has left on this earth.
In a very practical sense, all of us do some form of "heart-talk" everyday. Sometimes we call this "talking to ourselves". It isn't a bad thing because with "heart-talk" we are really getting to the core of the matter. It is in the heart where we find our greatest struggles - so it makes sense to let our heart-talk be directed toward the one who can sort out those struggles - God. David uses a term we think of in the courtroom sense: Build your case before God and wait for his verdict. In the most literal sense, we are "building our case" whenever we engage in heart-talk. When we are "building a case", we are putting together "evidence" we have come to believe will support our position. How the "case" is rendered a "verdict" is quite another matter.
If you have ever "built your case" in such a way you felt was exactly what would get you the specific course of action you desired and then found out a totally different course was set in motion, you probably have been a little disappointed. In retrospect, when we examine our "heart-talk" we may just find that our talk revealed the problem with the "case" - the heart! Our heart had a wrong approach to the circumstance - as when we feel we have a right to something we don't get and then form a little bitterness. The heart-talk may actually reveal the bit of bitterness by the words which are spoken!
I think we may actually think our heart-talk should "build a case FOR" the way we want to see things. In our passage, it doesn't say we get what we want when we engage in heart-talk. It says we get what God determines to be the best course of action. Now, this may not come as a welcome teaching for some of us, but nonetheless, it is truth. The instruction - build your case - then wait. In other words, put it out there before God and then trust him to sort it out. This is probably the hardest thing for most of us to do because we just rethink the issue over and over again from all angles and hope we will get to the end result of the "best" answer.
Problem is, we don't know the right answer most of the time! God sets things in motion for a reason. Sometimes it is to expose things hidden in our hearts we did not know were there. At others, it is to set things in motion within the life of another that will expose something they did not know was there. Waiting on God for his answer is the best thing we can do. Force the answer the way we envision it and we will likely experience a whole lot of discouragement in the end. So, take a lesson from the psalmist - learn to do some "heart-talk" and a little less complaining. In the end, we might just get the things sorted out which have been causing us much confusion along the way! Just sayin!