Are you lamenting or whining?
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Are You Lamenting or Whining?

We live in a culture of complainers. Everywhere we turn, we hear complaints. The culture’s bad. The neighbors are bad. Life’s not fair. Why can’t we have what we want when we want it. You know what I’m talking about.

I listened to a sermon series1 recently on the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk looked around him, seeing all the injustice, and challenged God on why He wasn’t doing anything about it. Habakkuk asked God a bunch of “why” questions and “how could you let that happen” questions. The speaker asked this question, “Was Habakkuk lamenting or just whining?” That question struck me. The answer has stuck in my brain for several weeks and challenged my own temptation to complain.

Surrounded by whining

My Facebook feed is often filled with alarm signals through a cleverly worded poem, a scathing video, or someone’s blog about how bad our society is. And, we “drink” the “whine.” Then, we get riled up, pass it along to rile others up, and wait for the next one to come that we can share. Here’s the truth: whining about life is not very effective for changing anything.

It’s a trap, this whining and pointing fingers at whatever is your thorn in life because it doesn’t meet your expectations. That reminds me of how movies portray women when they see a mouse—jumping up on a chair, stomping feet up and down, hands waving in the air and yelling. That makes for a great movie scene, but it’s not very effective for getting rid of the mouse!

The difference between lamenting and whining.

Crying out in anger and frustration to God is biblical. Many of the psalms do that. It is called lamenting.

Genuine lamenting comes from a heart that admits you are deserving of nothing. A heart of humility before God. Lamenting is honest-to-God dialogue.

Whining, on the other hand, presupposes that you are entitled to something and usually contains selfish motives. “I want what I want when I want it—now! And, oh, do it my way!”

Lamenting carries the discussion of whatever problems you see into the presence of God, giving Him opportunity to teach you something from it. Usually, He teaches you something about yourself or teaches you how to want His will more than your own.

In Habakkuk 2:1, the prophet said that he is stationing himself to listen to whatever God wants to teach him.

I will watch to see what he will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.

That’s the goal of lamenting. In the midst of your questions and complaints, stop and bring them to the Lord. Let Him lead you in your thinking about whatever your complaint is. I like the way this author put it,

“Our big problem is that we want to get His [God’s] thinking in line with ours. What Habakkuk is saying is this: ‘I’m going to take all the time necessary to get my thinking in line with God’s.’ Then God, when He has Habakkuk on his tower of meditation, can begin to declare something to Him.”

Stuart Briscoe, Hearing God’s Voice Above the Noise

God’s answer to us

Paul wrote this in Philippians.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14)

Grumbling springs from a bad attitude that is expressed through muttering, whining, & griping. You know very well that we humans have a strong tendency to mutter, grumble, whine, and gripe. And our relationships often feel the brunt of our “ungrateful” and “discontented” attitudes.

It’s okay to wrestle with God, doing so humbly and recognizing His sovereignty over everything—history, culture, your neighbors, or anything else that riles you. But, you can’t whine your way to any solution that is godly!

Yes, our culture is broken. And, yes, we need to be praying that our God will actively work in our culture. But, guess what? He chooses to do that through us—you and me individually—as we build into the lives of those around us who need to know Jesus. But, it’s easier and far more comfortable to whine about our culture and warn everyone about the bad that is going on around us than it is to intentionally pray for, spend time with, and share our faith with the neighbor right next door who is far from the God who created her. Yet, that is what Jesus commissioned each of us to do—to share with her the freedom and joy she can have in knowing Jesus. So, we need to stop whining and start befriending.

God told Habakkuk to write down what He (God) said to him so that it could be heralded to everyone who needs to hear it (Habakkuk 2:2). That’s what Jesus wants us to do as well. Spread God’s word more than our complaining.

Now, there is a difference between complaining and seeing a problem and working toward a solution. When it is possible to change the outcome of a situation or make a difference to those who are already in our daily walk of life, we should take action. Even then, we must watch out for grumbling when others don’t see our way. Stop whining, and start being intentional.

Do you have a complaint?

Based on the difference between lamenting and whining, if you are just complaining to people around you, whether in person or through digital media, that is WHINING!

If you are bringing your complaints to God, baring your soul and all your concerns to Him, and asking Him to help you think His way about whatever that complaint is, that is LAMENTING!

Lamenting is healthy for your relationship with God because it means you are taking advantage of the relationship Jesus Christ opened up for you to enjoy with your heavenly Father. It moves you away from focusing on yourself. Take all the time that is necessary to get your thinking in line with God’s.

I like the way this person said it,

“Lament, through the Holy Spirit, moves one from ‘me-centeredness’ to ‘God-centeredness’. … if the motive of my heart is to have an honest, authentic dialogue with God and if I am seeking, in this process of lament, to understand God’s heart and mind and surrender to His will, then I am moving from ‘me-centeredness’ to ‘God-centeredness’. But, if all I am bringing to God is a laundry list of complaints and entitlement demands, then I am whining.”

Lacyn Ward

That is the difference between lamenting and whining.

Think about all your recent complaints about what is going wrong in your world that you have voiced to your spouse, co-workers, neighbors, church friends, and even God. Are you lamenting or whining?

1 Dr. Wayne Braudrick, “Be Astonished: A Study of Habakkuk,” Friscobible.com)


More Resources:

The God-Dependent Woman Bible Study (read online)

The God-Dependent Woman Bible Study (download pdf)

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Melanie Newton is the founder of Joyful Walk Ministries, an online ministry that helps women learn to study the Bible for themselves and grow their Bible-teaching skills to lead others on a joyful walk with Jesus. Melanie has written many Bible study guides (available on Bible.org and her website) and presented insightful messages to large groups of women. All of her BIble Studies are available as books on Amazon.com. Melanie is wife to Ron Newton (“Integrity at Work” ministry), loves to be outside in her garden, and enjoys her yearly fix of boiled crawfish.

3 Comments

  • Lea Ann

    stop whining

    Great article Melanie and reminder that, of course, our culture is broken! Sharing Jesus is the something we all CAN do and are commanded to do! Reminds me of the verse "If you love me you will obey my commandments." Not whine about the brokenness around us! 

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  • Ruth Solow

    Cure for Whining

    What a great "cure" for the whining disease!  I love your prescription, Melanie.  Yes, it is definitely easier to whine than to be busy with God's mandate.  It's probably because most people are afraid of DOING that mandate.  I think of Jesus' answer to his earthly parents:  "I must be about my Father's business".  

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