Grief without Answers: Complaints to God

One of most painful aspects of death is that it gives no explanations. Why them? Why now? Everyone who loses someone they love asks those questions at some point. They hang over you; you just can’t escape them.

Did you know that the Bible asks those same questions? They’re called lament psalms, or complaint psalms, because they are complaints to God. Did you know that it’s okay to God?

I’d like to share with you one of the most poignant complaint psalms in all of Scripture. The author doesn’t hold back. He’s brutally honest. It’s Psalm 88, and here it is in New Living Translation.

[1] O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night.
[2] Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.
[3] For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near.
[4] I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left.
[5] They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten, cut off from your care.
[6] You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.
[7] Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me. Interlude

[8] You have driven my friends away by making me repulsive to them.
I am in a trap with no way of escape.
[9] My eyes are blinded by my tears.
Each day I beg for your help, O Lord; I lift my hands to you for mercy.
[10] Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead?
Do the dead rise up and praise you? Interlude

[11] Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
[12] Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
[13] O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.
[14] O Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face from me?

[15] I have been sick and close to death since my youth.
I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
[16] Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have paralyzed me.
[17] They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long.
They have engulfed me completely.
[18] You have taken away my companions and loved ones.
Darkness is my closest friend.

Psalm 88 (NLT)

Why is this in the Bible? How is this a statement of faith in God? It sounds more like an argument against God. But it actually does reaffirm faith in God in two ways.

FIRST, who you complain to shows who you think can comfort you or
you think is in charge.
Think about that for a second. You only complain to someone if you think they can help make you feel better—to comfort you, to agree with you, to say you’re not crazy. That’s why you turn to your friends.

Or you complain to someone if you think they’re in charge—that they could actually do something to fix the problem. That’s why we say, “Can I talk to a manager?”

So, if you’re complaining to God, that’s actually a good thing. If you turn to God in your grief or your anger, you’re actually affirming his existence, his power, his sovereignty. That’s exactly what this

Remember how the author started this Psalm:

“Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.”

By directing your complaints to God, he was actually affirming his faith, not denying it. The same thing goes for you.

It’s when you turn away from God to complain, when you cut yourself off from Him — that’s when you say that you don’t believe he can comfort you or you don’t believe he’s powerful enough to be in charge.

SECOND, complaint to God is worship of God. If you are complaining to God, you are affirming that you believe he can comfort you or he can do something about your pain. In theological terms, that means you are affirming that he is personal and loving (he comforts you) or that he is sovereign (he is in control).

Do you know what the bible calls it when we affirm the character and nature of God? Worship. That’s what singing is. We’re affirming the character and nature of God through songs.

So, when you direct your sorrow and complaints to God, rather than away from him, you are actually engaging in worship. You are recognizing the God is personal, loving, and sovereign.

So, as your grieve, allow yourself to complain to God, cry out to him, and ask him all the questions you want. In doing so, you are worshipping him and strengthening your faith — even when it feels like everything is falling apart.