There was a question that was asked in our last vGroup study. What is the difference between a grumble and a complaint or cry? Even though initially this question was hard to answer, it provoked a quality and reflective conversation. We started defining these terms and finding examples in scripture. When I first read the question, I could tell that it was using “complaint or cry’ synonymously. But for our conversation, we separated these terms for further clarification. Here’s what we found.
Grumbling- “the action or fact of complaining in a bad-tempered way.” When I read “bad tempered” I interpret that as anger. So what does an angry-fueled form of communication look like? It looks like what the Israelites did in the wilderness. When they were quarreling with Moses in Exodus 17 they said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?!” It is evident by the context of the verses and the definition of grumbling that Israelites were lashing out in anger. In a simple form, I believe we can understand grumbling as: complaining + anger
It looks like someone lashing out in anger at someone else…
If anger is now a part of the conversation, we have to talk about the “Anger Iceberg”. For those of you that don’t know, the Anger Iceberg that we use in the counseling world is used to help illustrate what anger looks like. The iceberg, above the surface, may be what we see, but under the surface, there is a large mass that we don’t see.
Anger is a secondary emotion. That means that when we are experiencing anger, there is usually a primary emotion that is fueling it. We could feel angry because we are sad, disappointed, tired, or even hungry. But I want to point out that sometimes it could be an emotion that is even deeper and more vulnerable to express than these examples. Feelings of embarrassment, fear, loneliness, or shame (if they are present) lie much deeper under the surface.
But let’s define complaining next.
Complaint- “a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable”. Sure the Israelites would have plenty of examples of them complaining as well. They illustrate a combination of a lot of grumbling and complaining. But is there someone else in the bible that demonstrates this pure definition of complaining? Yes! The best example, in my opinion, is Martha in Luke 10. She says “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”She felt that the situation was unacceptable and she brought her complaint to the Lord to hopefully change her situation.
And lastly to cry. Moreover, “to cry out”.
Cry out In addition to its shedding of tears definition, to cry out is defined as “to make a loud inarticulate sound expressing fear, pain, or grief” I am not surprised the Lord Jesus is the one that provides the perfect example of what it means to properly cry out to God.
Approaching the time of his crucifixion, Jesus retreated to the garden of Getsumony. Luke 22:41-44 “And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Jesus, in his deep fear and agony of the cross, cries out to the Father. He is honest about the deep emotional impact that he is experiencing.
The Israelites showed a lack of trust in God and not being perfectly honest. Their complaint of being hungry and tired fueled the anger that they brought to Moses and ultimately God. However, they might have been experiencing fear even deeper than that. In contrast to Jesus, we read that they grumble instead of bringing their deep fear to God earnestly.
So how do we take this breakdown and apply it practically? I believe that it comes down to asking two questions:
- What are you feeling?
- How are you communicating these feelings with God?
Don’t hesitate to earnestly express those true feelings to the Lord. Maybe you could use this template to practice this with God.
Lord, I recognized that I am angry. I believe my anger is being fueled by feelings of ______ and maybe even deeper feelings of ______. I pray that you remind my soul who you are to me. Please, Lord, remind my heart that you are big enough and capable enough to hold my feelings of ______. I want to see what you are doing around me in this situation. I want to feel your precedence. Amen.