Complaining Properly in the Kingdom of Heaven
by Joseph Franks
So what troubles you today? Have you a disease that has not been cured? Are you plagued with a physical or mental disability? Are your body and mind depreciating faster than you desire? Is your mental and emotional stability teetering? Have you a loved one headed for the grave? Are you in need of a loved one; do you find yourself lonely? Will your spouse not repent, forgive, grow, and pursue marital harmony? Do you have children that are breaking the Lord’s commands, breaking the Lord’s heart, and breaking your heart as well? Have you a temptation — a thorn in the flesh — that the Lord will not take away? Do you find yourself suffering under abusive authority figures? Are you being persecuted for righteousness sake? Are your finances fleeting, or have they already flown the coop? In your business dealings, are you struggling to be ethically pure while the wicked about you sin and greatly profit?
What should you do in this day of trouble? How should you — a godly individual — complain before the Lord your God? Friends, the answer is found in Psalm 102. There, the Holy Spirit has presented a model complaint for you review:
A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink, because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust. Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. For the Lord builds up Zion; he appears in his glory; he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer. Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord: that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord, and in Jerusalem his praise, when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord. He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!” Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you. (Psalm 102)
First, the godly man brings his complaint before the Lord. He might as well, for the Lord watches every step, hears every word, and knows every thought. There is nowhere for the hurting soul to hide from the all-seeing eye of God. Scripture states that before a word is on his tongue, God already knows it. His thoughts are like an open book. Therefore, the godly man, knowing the transparency with which God sees his affections, complaints, and questions, brings them all to God in prayer. Perhaps he will be found righteous. Perhaps he will have to adjust his thinking and repent. But either way, he brings all his thoughts to the throne room of God. He is like Jesus, pouring out his soul to his Father in the Garden and on the cross.
Second, the godly man prioritizes God’s presence over God’s adjustments or answers. God may exercise his mighty hand and rescue the troubled soul from tribulation; he may even do so quickly. Or, God may not choose to relieve the pressure, but he might choose to give the troubled soul insight into the reason for his suffering. Yet, however the Lord decides to respond, whether the Lord gives adjustments or answers, the godly man is desperate for his Heavenly Father not to hide his face in the day of distress. He needs God’s intimate presence, and he needs it speedily. He is like Jesus, needing the encouraging assistance of the Father and his angels in the Garden.
Thirdly, the godly man reminds himself of the divine attributes and the divine plan of his God. His Heavenly Father is sovereign; he is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, and immutable. People come and go. Generations come and go. Kingdoms come and go, but the Lord is enthroned forever. Therefore, though all may seem out of control, and though men prove to have no control, he reminds himself that the Heavenly Father is all controlling. God is the transcendent and immanent king over all that transpires on this God-cursed planet. He is like Jesus, submitting his will to the Father in the Garden and his soul to the Father on the cross.
Finally, the godly man focuses on eternal reversal and restoration. in his prayer, he knows the Lord may flex his mighty hand and rescue him from that which torments him in life. (I.e. Joseph was rescued from the pit and prison; Esther and the Jews were rescued from Hamaan; Paul and Silas were escorted out of prison) He is cognizant of the fact that God often chooses to bless humble disciples with health, wealthy, and prosperity. But he knows that if God chooses not to reverse the situation, all will be made right in the end. At the end of the story, prisoners will be set free. Those doomed to die will be found in the heavenly choir. The purified and revived earth will be like Zion, the city of God. n the end, the children of God will all dwell secure. Ultimately, all that is wrong will be made right. He ends his prayer like Jesus in the Garden, ready to go forth and suffer on, because the joy that is set before him is worth it all.