Earlier this week, my granddaughter Isabel and I were attempting to find a specific store for her. Unable to see the sign from my wheelchair, I inquired about the store we just passed. She responded, “It was a wine shop.” In a feeble attempt to be amusing and teach her about homonyms (words which sound the same but are different), I quipped, “I wonder if they would purchase some from our family?” She didn’t get it…
Whining usually irritates and annoys anyone who hears it, although almost everyone does it. Cable news channels thrive on it. Private persons practice it. Since a large part of my interaction with people occurs within the Veterans Administration, I hear a steady diet of complaints. There is an old English word, whinge, which is still much in use in Britain and Australia. So, a whinger is one who habitually complains. I myself have been known, upon, occasion to be both a proficient and prolific whinger. Perhaps you can identify with me.
One of the most recent complaints I hear is the plethora of political rants and tirades. It seems obvious, at least to me, that we live in a society which is greatly but almost equally divided. Both sides have much to say to the other, but no one is listening. So, I thought it might be helpful to offer some helpful, remarks and suggestions on making a fine whine.
Let’s start with some definitions:
- Whine – a prolonged or frequent cry or complaint, expressing pain or discomfort
- Whinge – frequent or repeated complaining regarding a present affliction
- Affliction – a persistent suffering or anguish
- Lament a cry or appeal to God for help in overcoming a present calamity, a.k.a. complaint to God
The Bible actually has quite a bit to say regarding complaining – mostly negative. Although crying out or complaining to God is encouraged and modeled by godly people, complaining about circumstances and situations is an affront to God. He takes it as a personal insult. Scripture teaches that affliction occurs in three categories: physical, emotional and spiritual.
Affliction serves three main purposes for God’s people.
- Discipline: God is a father who disciplines his children when they disobey. Not only may discipline be corrective (Hebrews 12.6–11), it may also be preventive, such as Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12.7)
- Sanctification: God uses troubles to teach his ways, restore us to fellowship, demonstrated his faithfulness and form Christ-likeness in his children.
- God’s Glory: trouble and affliction often provide God’s people with opportunities to demonstrate loyalty and love for God. For instance, Job’s suffering and questions received no explanations from God for why he suffered. It was purely for God’s glory.
Suffering and affliction is not a one-way street; the Bible shows us that God suffers. God is in anguish when his people sin (Genesis 6.6–7; Jeremiah 9.1–2). God is distressed when his people are oppressed (Isaiah 63.9; Acts 9.4–5). Through the suffering and affliction of Jesus Christ, God saved his people. In Christ, he identified with our brokenness and experienced our affliction, by suffering God’s holy wrath against sin (Isaiah 53.5–12).
Although God’s people continue to suffer, ultimately facing affliction is a privilege (Philippians 1:29) because the afflicted can take confidence in God’s promise that his “power is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
Now, with this quick overview and background, let’s examine Psalm 86 as a model for crying out to God. It is one of several Psalms of lament recorded in the Bible.
Psalm 86:title–17 (ESV) A Prayer of David.
1 Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
For our purposes, it will be helpful to see that this Psalm is broken down into 3 parts.
- (V.1–7) is a call to God for help from one who recognizes his own impotence.
- (V.8–13) focuses on the grandeur of God and provides the basis for calling out to him – God is powerful, majestic and compassionate. He is willing and able to help.
- (V.14–17) exposes not only the source of the trouble, but also encouragement to continue calling out to God the Lord.
To sum up, when we feel like everything is against us and ruthless people oppose us, make a fine whine by remembering that:
- God has a purpose: he is disciplining us, sanctifying us or glorifying himself.
- God himself suffers and in Christ’s suffering has saved us.
- God hears us when we cry out to him, confessing our weakness and his greatness.
- God is both able and willing to help us.
- God will call to account both his and our enemies.
So, when trouble and affliction confront us – and we know they will, instead of complaining about our circumstances and troubles, cry out to the living God – he is the only one who is able and willing to help. He is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon him.