Does God really want to hear us complain?
That’s one of the questions Valerie Woerner tackles in her new book, Pray Confidently & Consistently. Earlier this week, I invited Val to join me as a guest on my IG Live series, Conversations on Prayer. I’d read her book, and I was eager to pick her brain about how we can experience a more rich and satisfying prayer life.
We covered all sorts of ground, from why we pray to how we can let go of the things that hold us back. Things like feeling like we have to clean up our act to come to God (or like it’s not cool to complain)…uncertainty about what we should pray for…or wondering whether God even hears our prayers when we don’t see anything happening.
If you missed our conversation, you can watch it on my IGTV (scroll to the bottom of this post for the how-to’s if this is new tech for you…it is for me!). And in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy quick snippet of wisdom from the new book. I don’t have space to print the whole thing, but here are some highlights from Chapter 6…
Learning to Lament, Doubt, and Cry Out to God
Val admits, right off the top, that she is a “great complainer” – but that she would “never” complain to God.
“Why would I”” she writes. “How could I? How tacky! How classless! How…much like David, the man after God’s own heart.”
It’s true. The Psalms are full of lamenting and “Why, God?” prayers. (Check out Psalm 13 if you need a for instance.) And that was tricky for Val. She didn’t understand why God would welcome a prayer marked by complaining, doubt, or lament – at least not until she recognized that when we make it look like we have it all together, we miss out on a closer connection with God.
“When someone sees all your quirks and habits and sticks with you,” she writes, “it deepens the intimacy because you know how fully loved you are.” The alternative – attempting to seal off our closet of complaints from God’s sight (even though we know nothing is hidden from him) – prevents us from fully experiencing and enjoying that love.
Why we complain
Our questions, confusion, and even complaints can never shock God. He formed our minds; he knows we don’t know everything. And so, Val concludes, “I think he responds with patience, much as we do with our kids, knowing that their understanding is limited.”
Which is, she says, the nutshell explanation for why we complain: We complain because we don’t see the full picture.
“If we did see everything,” Val writes, “I think we’d agree with God’s plan, but instead we see just a snippet. We ache as we feel the pain in our own lives, lives that feel like all we have because we can’t imagine how they fit into the larger picture of eternity.”
So what do we do? How do we make sure our moments of sadness and doubt look like David’s lament (which God honored) and not the Israelites’ whining to Moses (which got them in trouble with God)?
Four Essentials in Healthy Lament
Val outlines four steps for effectively shaping complaints into prayers that God longs to hear:
First… Go Directly to God
There are things we feel perfectly comfortable complaining to our family about; in Val’s case, it was the rain (okay, hurricane) that ruined their beach trip. But bugging God with this stuff? That just feels petty.
And yet, Val says, who we take our complaints to matters. God is waiting to change our hearts. He knows, she writes, that “any hope of transforming our complaints and whines into heart-changing laments is going to come in his presence. If we want gratitude and faith to replace the entitlement or doubts in our hearts, it will only happen when we take these things to the one who created those hearts.”
Next… Acknowledge Your Pain
David gets brutally real with God (see, for example, Psalm 6:6-7 and 44:23-26), and so should we. God can handle our honesty; it’s when we leave out the pain or gloss over the wounds that our prayers start to sound phony.
“You might be wrestling with lots of doubts at the moment,” Val writes. “Maybe there’s a sin you keep buried in the closet and have yet to confess. Or perhaps you’re grieving and angry at God. Prayer may feel impossible, but you’re in a better spot than you think. You have nothing to offer, but that’s always been true. It’s just more visible now.”
Tell God how you feel; he can handle it.
Third… Make Your Request
“Make your requests known to God, and listen for his answer.”
That’s Val’s advice, along with a word of caution: “Don’t assume that if [God] wanted to give you relief, blessing, or freedom from the struggle, he would have already done it. Our God gives good gifts to his children, as we’ve seen in Matthew 7:11, but he also tells us to ask for them.”
And finally… Praise Well
“When we complain to anyone besides God, our experience is hopeless and defeated. But when we lament to God, we get out of our personal reality and get into God’s. We remind ourselves of the truth and hope we have in Jesus. This is why praise is a necessary part of lament.”
God doesn’t want us to come to him with all our drama because he loves it. He wants us to come because he loves us. He knows he’s the ONLY one who, Val says, “can redeem our complaints and comfort us in our laments.”
And it’s okay if we have to keep reminding ourselves of this truth – if we (as Val puts it) “seesaw back and forth from lament to praise.” David did that. He gave voice to the truth again and again, taking hold of what he knew in his mind and speaking it to his heart.
Don’t be afraid of hurts, doubts, and frustrations. Take them to God, throw off the weight of facades, and realize that you are fully known…and fully, deeply, unconditionally loved.
Want to know more about releasing your complaints to the Lord? Read all of Chapter 6 in Pray Confidently & Consistently.
Or watch the IGTV interview, where Val shares more on this topic. Go to my Instagram feed and click the thing that looks like a little TV:
Or just spend a few minutes sharing your lament, honestly, with the One who can help. Be encouraged by Christ’s invitation…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
As always, I only tell you about books I truly love; if you purchase via the link in this email, I get a small commission.