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Give it a rest…

August 29, 2020
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I don’t generally get to say that phrase out loud, but I’m often feeling it these days. There are times in my counseling, after hearing the same spousal complaint 11 times in 10 minutes, I want to say it. But I rarely do, because it’s not helpful to the process. I nearly always feel it when I see or hear the news. Not the headlines. Not the nuggets of salient information about what actually happened, but when the media personalities tell me what these nuggets mean and how I should feel and think about them. You probably don’t, but I routinely say it out loud to the TV.

Last night I saw an ad on TV that evoked this deeply philosophical response. The essence of the ad was that wearing a mask says much about the kind of person who is wearing it. And so does not wearing a mask. The unambiguous message is that if you don’t wear a mask you’re a low-life, selfish, disrespectful, red-necked idiot who will keep the pandemic going.

I wear a mask when I go to Walmart because they require it. When I go to other places that display a sign on the entry door that masks are required, I wear a mask. I don’t do this because I fear I’ll get or give the virus to someone, but because I’m entering an environment that is not mine, and I’ll submit to the desires of the owners of the establishment. It’s not about science. It’s about respecting others.

You can probably tell from this that I’m not 100% onboard with the idea that masks will end the pandemic. Are there times when a mask would be appropriate? Yes. And when this is the case, I’ll wear one. But the science I’m reading is bearing out these days that these times aren’t everywhere and every time. You get to believe what you want to about masks. If you believe they’re essential, let me know, and I’ll do my best to wear one when I’m around you. I don’t want to make your life more difficult, because I respect you. But you don’t have to wear one around me.

For me, the mask-up thing is a “give it a rest” thing. So. Sorry if that creates a stumbling block for anybody.

I wonder if God ever says, “Give it a rest…”? This is a purely anthropomorphic question. The theological truth is that God doesn’t live within the emotional constraints we live within. For instance, He can’t be disappointed. And that matters here because disappointment is a part of the “give it a rest” thing. Disappointment would be impossible for an omniscient (one who knows all) being. Because of this He can’t be surprised. He knew from eternity before time that I’d be whining. I don’t think He can be fatigued, either. He rested on the 7th day of Creation, but I’m not thinking this was because he was tired, but because He was giving us His own example for observing sabbath.

But I still think He might sometimes say, “Give it a rest…”

If I were God, I’d be saying it. Thankfully, I’m not God.

I journal every morning as part of my Quiet Time routine. I discovered 45 years ago that the best answer for my ADD prayer-hindering brain was to write my prayers, and I’ve been doing it ever since. If you have trouble staying on task with your prayers, I recommend the practice of writing them.

A few years back, I thought it would be a good thing to gather up a bunch of my journals and read through them for inspiration. So on a Day Away (another practice I recommend), I set out for Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas with a ragged stack of journals, anticipating a rewarding couple of hours being reminded of how reliable God is and how He had carried me along through my many trials.

What I got from the day wasn’t very rewarding, though. Page after page, journal after journal was little more than a series of complaints and whines about how things in life weren’t working for me. After a few minutes, I abandoned the plan. It was too depressing to finish. The message was simple and clear: You are a spiritual wienie. Give it a rest, Oscar (as in Meyer).

If I was God (and, again, we’re all glad I’m not) I’d be a little sick and tired of hearing people like me whining and complaining incessantly about the same things over and over again. I’d be worn out by the 11 complaints in 10 minutes thing. My patience would wear thin quickly.

The truth is, though, that God isn’t sighing a divine sigh and saying, “Again?…” And here’s how I know. The Book of Psalms.

When you compare the themes of the individual psalms, you see a few categories emerge. Songs of praise. Songs of admonition. And songs of lament (which are songs of complaint). You might think the songs of praise would be the largest category. It’s not. The songs of lament and complaint comprise the largest category. There are a ton of them. And not all of them are pious and polite. Most of them are raw and even crude.

A lot can be made of this. I’ll spare you my rant about it and just say this: apparently it’s OK with God that we complain. In fact, it’s so OK that He has included it in His Word to us. I believe the inference here is that God wants us to complain to Him.

In addition to the example of the many Psalms of Lament, isn’t that part of the meaning in 1 Peter 5:7? “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I wonder of a lose paraphrase could be, “Go ahead and complain away. It’s OK. I love you.”

An interesting thing about the Psalms of Lament is that many (but not all) of them end with a God-ward focus. They begin with the raw emotions of disappointment, sadness, anger, even a desire for revenge, but end with words of affirmation about the goodness and faithfulness of God. Many of them end with thanksgiving for these. God’s goodness and faithfulness, not the things that caused the lament.

Here’s the bottom line for me on this. God gets it. He’s OK with the fact that there are things we don’t understand and don’t like. He’s OK with us complaining to Him. He’s not rolling His eyes and whispering for us to get over it under His breath.

There are a lot of things I need to give it a rest about, but when I cast my anxiety on Him, He actually likes it. Because He cares for me. And when I’ve got so many First World Problems to complain about, that’s kind of comforting.

From → Marriage

6 Comments
  1. I enjoyed reading your post. It was filled with many truths. Thank you very much for sharing it.

  2. Joyce F. permalink

    Steve really appreciate these words of wisdom

  3. Julie Raak permalink

    You hit the nail on the head. We do like to complain. Sure am thankful God is who He is.
    I sure do miss your teaching and smiling face. Please give your lovely wife a hug for me.

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