When Is It Okay To Grumble or Question?

May 5, 2008

Last night at Connection we talked about the issue of grumbling in Philippians 2:14-15. Grumbling is when we fail to properly receive in life what has come to us from God’s good hand. Questioning is when we cringe in our hearts in response to what we have received. It is when we think we have received less than we deserve from God. It is an internal response motivated by evil or doubting thoughts. Grumbling and questioning takes many forms in our lives. It takes the form of rivalry and conceit (Phil 2:3), as well as the form of pride and selfishness (Phi 2:4).

I gave some personal examples from my own life of what this kind of grumbling and questioning looks like realistically.

  • When I grumble because I don’t want to deal with my children because I am tired, and I am grumbling/questioning the blessing of children and abdicating my God-ordained responsibility as a father. I am also failing to serve and honor my wife;
  • When I grumble about the length of a worship service, I am failing to gratefully receive the grace of Christian fellowship and the proclamation of God’s Word;
  • When I question why some circumstance has happened to me, it is a sign that, in my heart, I believe I know better than God what’s best for me and my sanctification;
  • When I was young and failed to honor and obey my parents, it was a sign of unbelief in God’s promise to those who obey and honor their parents;
  • When I complain about situations that arise here at church, it is evidence of my disobedience to the command to serve each of you with joy (Heb 13:17)

These are serious issues because God condemns the sin of grumbling (1Cor 10:10). It is an insidious sin that we have relegated to respectability on the sin-o-meter. One reason it is so serious is because both the fight of faith (Phil 2:12-13) and the renown of Jesus are at stake (Phil 2:15) in how we respond to life.


After Connection Wes Rector asked me if there was ever a time that grumbling or questioning might be acceptable biblically because passages such as Psalm 22 seem to indicate that there may be appropriate times for such complaints to God. When reading Psalm 22 or any other passage of Scripture that seems littered with complaints and questions, we need to evaluate the passage in light of the rest of Scripture. The grumbling that Paul condemns in Philippians 2 is the kind of reaction we have to life when we feel that something unfair is happening to us. It is the kind of reaction rooted in distrust. But Psalm 22 shows no evidence of distrust by the psalmist.

But you, O LORD, be not far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! (Ps 22:22)

Here we see confidence displayed in the psalmist that if he asks, God will deliver!

We also learn in Philippians that the kind of questioning that is inappropriate is the internal reaction within the heart to circumstances that is evil or filled with doubt. It is the reaction that says we have received something in life what we have not deserved. It is the attitude of the heart that wallows in thoughts that God has somehow been less than good or faithful to us in our circumstances. Once again, there is no evidence of this in the life of the psalmist.

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:23-24)

For the psalmist, affliction is not evidence that God has frowned upon his children. It is not even evidence of indifference. The call by the psalmist is that we are to declare God’s goodness in our affliction, and that when we cry out to him in the midst of our pain, he will hear our cry.

It is never okay to grumble or question as Paul describes it in Philippians 2:14-15. However, neither is it inappropriate for us to legitimately cry out our complaints to God about unjust circumstances in our lives. But those complaints must not be tainted by doubt of God’s goodness, sovereign care or provision. God providential purposes in our lives may sometime be confusing in the moment, but they are given to us with designs to conform us to the image of the glorious Son (James 1:2-4). Trust in God’s promises today, and give evidence that your hope is in him by not grumbling about or questioning the gifts given to you on this day.



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