The Gift of Complaint

By Cindy Koch

Speak positively. Act happily. Pray hopefully. When God closes a door, he opens a window. He doesn’t give you more than you can handle. He works all things out for our good. Sometimes it’s helpful to hear the Pollyanna perfect sayings about our life. Sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes you wonder if this walk in uncertainty is really for your good. Sometimes you are overwhelmed with way more than you can handle. Sometimes he closes doors and windows and leaves you alone in the darkness. Your prayers struggle with hope. Your actions are drowned in regret. Your words are trapped inside and silent.

Living in the dead and disfigured world smashes into the happy smiles of victory. Praying harder or trying one more time just doesn’t change anything. Their words of happiness and love sound so shallow in the face of real pain. They want you to identify and conquer the evil that brings you down. They want you to forget the tears that plague your night, and you just can’t.

Many Christians have lost the gift of complaint. Maybe they are scared to admit that evil surrounds us at every turn. Maybe they don’t realize that the problems of sin, death, and the devil are beyond our control. Maybe they think that we can win the victory over the problems that plague our thoughts, words, and deeds. But our complaint, our lament, actually confesses an essential truth for those who hope in Christ.


I am a poor, miserable sinner; this world and my life are not right.

The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. Proverbs 14: 20

It’s true. The poor, miserable sinners don’t have a lot to offer. The poor, miserable sinners bring the ugly pain of this world to our attention. After all, poor, miserable sinners are condemned to hang on a cross and die. The poor, miserable sinners, if they are honest, are each one of us.

Admitting the depressingly obvious is no small thing. You acknowledge answers cannot be found in your own heart. You confess that the advice of the world leads to death. You cry out to God, “To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” And our lament points us directly to the only One who saves.

In our emptiness, we hunger and thirst for forgiveness. Christ fills our mouth with a promise to chew, swallow, and speak. In our sadness, we ache for renewal. Christ drenches our head and our heart with white garments of His new life. In the middle of our daily nightmare, Christ opens our eyes to a desperate trust in Him alone.

The gift of complaint is our weary exhale all over the torn creation of God, but with Christ’s own breath, we certainly take a deep inhale of new life.