Here’s one of those distinguishing things I think are important to pay attention too, the differences between murmuring, complaining, and lamenting.
“Murmuring” is the word used in the bible, a word similar to complaining but very different too. It’s more like whining. Murmuring is walking about in the dessert for 40 years muttering to yourself. Murmuring is muttering negativity under your breath with no desire or intention of changing anything. You prefer to just murmur, you’re invested in not solving the problem.
I know this on account of the fact that I have certainly spent some time murmuring….
We should let go of murmuring as soon as possible, murmering is just negativity, murmuring doesn’t want a solution, murmuring is often just mindless self pity flavored with bitterness.
But a complaint can be a really good thing! It means to lodge a complaint, to file a complaint, to make a report or a petition for grievances. The Bible says, “you have not because you ask not.” You ask not because……you’re too busy murmuring. To complain is also to express dissatisfaction with a standard you expect. To have a standard you expect means there is a standard and a Standard Bearer, too.
We should complain, we should be able to say, “You know what Lord, all this stuff over here falls way short of your design, way short of what You desire for us.” Believe it or not, I used to never complain. I would lament, grieve, and then skip right to murmuring, but never complain. As a friend of mine used to murmur about the very nature of complaining, why bother? Nobody cares anyway. It’s not like it’s going to do any good.
A whole lot of us who grew up in less than ideal circumstances learned to just suck it up. We learned that our concerns don’t matter, but we also learned that those in power and authority do not care. So we just remade God in the image of all that ignorance, and we never complained.
That is actually not fair to God. That’s not who He is, that’s not what He desires from us. He wants to hear our concerns, He wants to receive our prayers and petitions. Also, to express our discontentment is to admit or acknowledge that there is a standard, there is a Kingdom not yet come.
You know what one of the biggest problems I see within faith, at least in the Western world? Contentment! Our comfort zones, our unwillingness to express any discontent. We don’t complain. Everything is always “fine.” I’m just so blessed…
Now there is of course a critical spirit and the endless Christian murmuring about thermostats and worship music, but then there is also just plain old complacency, the inability or unwillingness to even notice that we fall so, so short, us as individuals and us as churches. And we need to take our complaints right to the Lord, because He fixes stuff, He changes things up. You know what repentance is? Metanoia, change, fixing stuff, turning it all around, flipping a 180.
Jonah in the Bible, the Book of Jonah, actually taught me about the value of complaining to God. Jonah is doing them all, murmuring, lamenting, complaining. In fact, Jonah is so convinced that the Lord is good, that He hears our complaints and our prayers, that he won’t pray for the people of Nineveh. He knows God is going to save them and that makes Jonah angry. God doesn’t tell Jonah he shouldn’t be angry, God actually asks for more and says, “Are you angry, Jonah?” And Jonah says “yes, sore angry!” That’s what transforms a murmur into complaint, that’s what enables God to fix it.
I love how it isn’t even about Nineveh anymore, it’s now all about Jonah and the worm that ate his shade, and his own anger at God.
Murmuring is when you just jump ship, it’s a no confidence vote, but to complain is to engage, it’s a willingness to at least have a conversation.