Apparently, I whine when I get sick. “My nose is stuffy!” “I can’t breathe!” “My throat hurts!” “I don’t feel good!” and other bits of important information. I guess my wife considers that whining. I prefer to look at it as giving her a status update on the progress of my illness. It seems perfectly reasonable to me. She needs this kind of information in order to administer the right medicine. (And I don’t believe that just saying, “Stop whining” is medicinal). OK, so maybe whining isn’t the best or most effective way to deal with life events, but there is a legitimate need to express what is going on in our lives to others who care about us. It is natural and necessary to simply experience what we are feeling and express it in a genuine and mature way. Ignoring or denying our true emotional state is unproductive.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it shows people how we really are. This is especially true of King David. He was so human, so normal, and so open about how he felt and so willing to express it directly to God. I love that the Scriptures let people be portrayed as real, feeling human beings.
I was reading through David’s Psalms and came across Psalm 13. In these 6 short verses, David captures the intensity, frustration and bewilderment of our human lives and our relationship with God. Here is how he starts:
1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Have we not often felt this way? Feeling abandoned by God, our prayers unheard and unanswered. We feel like we are in a sound-proof, windowless room yelling at the top of our lungs for God to hear us! We know He’s out there, or at least, we think He is. Where are you? What’s taking so long? Are You mad at me? What did I do wrong? We cry in anguish or despair or bitterness. It seems like our enemies – spiritual, relational, emotional – are beating us up and are winning. This is life as we are experiencing it. What is remarkable to me is that we find this in Scripture expressed by a godly man. It reminds me that God does not minimize my human-ness. He allows for my pain to be expressed and He is not offended or angered by it. The fact that I can, like David, wail before God is in itself comforting.
Yet it doesn’t end there. The next verse completely revolutionizes our human experience. David changes gears with one simple word… “but.” This word changes everything. It means that in spite of everything just said, there is a different reality about to be revealed. It says that we don’t have to be stuck in the muck. What a great word – but. It offers hope and promise of something radically different than what I may be experiencing now. “But” picks us up, slaps us in the face and compels us to look in a different direction.
And here is what that “but” points us to.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.
Here is the magnificent counterpoint to everything that life can throw at us. What can stand up against his unfailing love? What can overcome his salvation? What could possibly be more powerful than his goodness to me? Nothing! When life seems to be chewing us up; when we just want to cry “Uncle” because we’ve had enough, we can remind ourselves to trust – His unfailing love will see us through, rejoice – His salvation gives us hope, sing – He has a history of being good to us. I know this sounds so cliché and such a pat Christian answer, but it works. It works because it is grounded in what is TRUE, not what we feel is true. It works because it redirects us from ourselves to Him. I didn’t say this was easy or instantaneous. I did say that it works.
So when you feel compelled to whine about “whatever”, go ahead get it out of your system, BUT then remember to trust, rejoice and sing. I can guarantee that that “whatever” won’t seem so overwhelming anymore.