Grumbling Versus Lamenting

I’ve gotten to Ezekiel in my Genesis-to-Revelation trek through the Haydock Bible, and these last several books have been full of descriptions of just how awful things had become (and how much worse they were going to be once the full consequences of the nations’ sin came to bear).

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d gotten the idea that when things were bad there were basically two verbal responses: grumble or shut up. Reading the story of the Exodus didn’t make the first option look so good–every time they grumbled they got clobbered!

…but David didn’t shut up. The Psalms are full of expressions of pain, fear and sorrow. Neither did Jeremiah–just read Lamentations! And God called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22), nor was He displeased with Jeremiah.

There must be a third option, a way of expressing suffering
without grumbling.

So what’s the difference?

What I’m coming up with is that grumbling turns away from God in distrust, while lamentation turns toward Him in confidence. When the Israelites grumbled, they threatened. If God didn’t solve their problems they were going to get Moses out of the way and high-tail it back to Egypt. They didn’t trust God to care for them–it was Adam’s sin all over again:

Man, tempted by the devil,
let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and,
abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command.
This is what man’s first sin consisted of
(Cf. Gen 3:1-11; Rom 5:19).
All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God
and lack of trust in his goodness.
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 397

When David and Jeremiah (and others) lamented, they mixed their plaint with praise, reminding God of His promises, His covenants, His mighty deeds in the past. They expressed certainty in His ability and desire to rescue them when the time was right. Sometimes the laments get confusing–there’s so much praise mixed in that it’s hard to keep track of the fact that enemy armies are at the gate!

That seems to be what God wants from us. Give full expression to fear, sorrow and pain, but saturate that expression with confidence in God’s intention and ability to rescue and redeem.

Now we know that for those who love God
all things work together unto good,
for those who, according to His purpose,
are saints through His call.
-Romans 8:28

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.
Present your needs to God in every form of prayer
and in petitions full of gratitude.
Then God’s own peace,
which is beyond all understanding,
will stand guard over your hearts and minds,
in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

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