Cry Out to God

November 4, 2017

Suck it up, buttercup-A friend’s teenage son complains about running 2 miles for soccer practice, or about math homework that has to be done, or carrying the deer he shot back to the house to process.  Her response? Suck it up, buttercup. It is another way of saying, “Yes, it’s hard, but you can do it-so get to it!”

Stop complaining. Be grateful for what you have. Either you have said these things to someone (your own whining offspring?), or someone has said these things to you.

Children complain. Adults don’t.

It is good to be grateful for what God has given us; is it ever ok to express our pain to God? To voice our complaint? To ask God “where are you?” Or “why?”

Life is not always good.
What do we do when…

We find there are no easy answers to problems in our life, no quick resolutions?

We are overwhelmed by injustice in our world, and God seems nowhere to be found? What is the point of praying when we see so little change in the suffering in our world?

An unresolved mental or physical illness eats away at our once solid faith?

We feel abandoned by God?

Far from saying, “Christians aren’t supposed to feel that way”, ancient Hebrew poets and songwriters, authors of the Psalms, give voice to pain, suffering, and even doubt. The Psalmists honestly cry out to God; they lament. In lament, they offer their “complaint” to God with raw emotion, yet always in the context of trust in God.

You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?

The Psalmist speaks from a place of both trust and pain. God, you are my stronghold (trust). Why have you rejected me (pain)?

When I was younger, I found laments in the Psalms disconcerting and disconnected. I thought the Psalmist’s theology suspect. How could one say harsh, questioning things to God (which I had no problem with-I was well aware of the brokenness in myself and in the world), then make a 180 degree turn and say upbeat things about praising God at the end of the Psalm? Was ending the Psalm “happily” a way of placating God so God wouldn’t be angry with the mean things you said to him? It seemed fake, a bit disingenuous to me. Why didn’t the Psalmists just write a purely “angry” Psalm? Why did the poet tack “praise and hope” onto the end of Psalm 43?

Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (v. 5)

Since then, my older self has experienced disappointment and grief at the death of my daughter. I have stood with families in painful moments of disbelief and despair brought on by illness, family crisis, or death. I have listened to brothers and sisters in Christ giving voice to their pain-and their hope in God.

Far from placating God with words of hope and trust, I now know that the Psalmist’s hope and trust in God are the very foundation from which they cry out to God. Listening to my brothers and sisters in who are walking through dark valleys-trust in God is what undergirds their (our) ability to give complaints and griefs to God so honestly. Paradoxically, trust in God can also be a steadying force in a whirlwind of doubt. Doubt in the midst of trust; God holds us when we doubt Him and His plans for us and His world.

Our complaints, our crying out is wrapped up in our ultimate hope in God. We cry out because we know God loves us.

Even when we don’t feel God’s presence or God’s care for us, we know that God is present, and God is caring for his people. Psalm 43 reflects our life’s experience of both hope and despair, confidence in God’s care for us as well as feelings of abandonment.  Throughout life, my guess is we will all have these experiences and feelings. And we will be in good company, singing along with the Psalmist

You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me? (v. 2)

Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (v. 5)

About the Author
  • Amy deGroot Bowling and her husband, Nick, share the associate pastor position of youth and family at Ferry Memorial Reformed Church in Montague, MI.