My wife posted the quote below on Facebook in regard to complaining:
If you are a sovereigntist, or one who believes in the absolute sovereignty of our God, and you gripe or complain about your circumstances, you’re being a hypocrite; for you demonstrate, with your words and by your actions, that you don’t actually trust God that He is in control. — Gabriel Hughes
One of the commenters offered a perspective I thought was worth considering:
What if I gripe and complain about my circumstances because I see my folly that led me into those circumstances? Yes, I’m a sovereigntist. And yet our God is also one who allows things to happen for his glory. It’s a fine hair because he is still ultimately in control in allowing me to make poor choices.
What follows is my response to that question.
God Really Is Sovereign
First, it is necessary to understand what it means that God is sovereign as well as believe that God is sovereign. That is, he is the supreme ruler, or ultimate power – absolutely. Possessing all power, God is thus able to create any potential circumstance. What we conclude from these facts is that, in a very real sense, we live in the best of all possible worlds. Yes, that is right. Because God is perfect and possesses absolute power and supremacy, we can be sure that there is no world of which we could conceive that would be better in an objective sense. That is to say, the reality we experience is the reality which ascribes to God the glory He deserves.
This is the ultimate reason why we are prohibited from complaining (Phil 2:14). Every complaint is a shaking of your fists toward God and His sovereign decree. We are told to give thanks in all things (1 Thess 5:18), and to even count difficulties as joy (James 1:2; Matthew 5:12).
Bad Things Really Do Happen
We sense tension when we try to harmonize an all-good and all-powerful God with a world where so much evil seems to prevail (Hab 1:13). In our (very) limited wisdom, we don’t understand God’s ways (Is 55:8-9). Yet, we are expected to trust Him, His purposes, and his means of accomplishing those purposes. It is intellectually dishonest to say we trust God, then question His plan when we observe that God uses even the wicked to accomplish His purposes. This is at least partially what Peter was rebuked by our Lord for in Mark 8:31-33 (ESV).
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.
The take-home lesson from all this is that we ought to ALWAYS trust God’s revealed will, even when in our finite minds, we cannot make sense of it. The problem is always with us and never with God when there is conflict. God’s will is revealed in two ways: through His Word (the Bible) and through what has actually transpired. That is to say, we know His will because His Word specifies it (like Jesus speaking to Peter in Mark 8), and we know God’s decretive will by what has happened (that which God decreed from eternity past). For example, we know it was God’s will that I was born on February 10th because I was born that date. Because God ultimately willed for an event to occur, complaining about that event is an attack on either His sovereignty or His wisdom or His goodness (or even all 3).It is intellectually dishonest to say we trust God, then question His plan when we observe that God uses even the wicked to accomplish His purposes. Click To Tweet
But We Should Feel Bad When We Sin, Right?
Yes, absolutely. When we sin, we should feel bad. We ought to mourn our sin (Matthew 5:4) and hate it. This is what the elect of God do! After being given a heart of flesh, mourning is the appropriate response when you sin in this body of death! If a man or woman in Christ does not have a conscience which is sensitive to sin, we worry about the state of their soul. So if we hate sin so much, and we know that sin carries with it terrible consequences, should we not be entitled to a little complaining about the results of our sin? We aren’t blaming God; we are blaming ourselves, right? Let me give you three reasons I think this is still a no-no.
That Sin is Part of God’s Decree
Careful! That sin you committed for which you want to gripe about your circumstance is part of the decreed will of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has promised to use it for His good purposes (Romans 8:28), so it falls under the command to do all things without complaining!
True Repentance Pleases God, Not Worldly SorrowDo not mistake your worldly sorrow and sadness for your state of affairs for godly sorrow and repentance. Click To Tweet
Secondly, there is a distinction between regretting the sin you committed because you abhor the consequences and mourning the sin you committed because it offended the holy God who redeemed you by the blood of His cross! Do not mistake your worldly sorrow and sadness due to the of your affairs for godly sorrow and repentance. Wicked men repent all the time of their wrongdoing because of earthly consequences. That does not make them godly men, nor does it please the Lord: for everything we do must be done from faith and that which is not done from faith is sin (Rom 14:25)!
Nay, my friend, your griping about your consequences, regardless of the reason, is nothing more than self-centeredness and self-love. The heart issue is a rejection of God’s sovereignty, goodness, or wisdom. In our attempt to justify ourselves, we often ascribe pious motives to our actions. It feels righteous to say “I’m only complaining about my own sin!” Be suspicious of your own motives, my friend. We are not usually as pious as we like to think.
You Think Too Highly of Yourself
Finally, when you are overly disappointed in yourself, what you are saying is that you think highly of yourself. This is ungodliness! Think about it: you aren’t disappointed with people from whom you do not expect much. When a criminal commits a crime, it’s like, “Meh, I’ve seen that before.” But when respected men are caught in iniquity, we are a bit more shocked and disappointed in them. A pastor found with pornography is a bigger “fall” than a new Christian who is still shedding the habit.
So when you find yourself thinking about your own sin and complaining about the circumstances it produced — or even better, simply lamenting that it occurred — there comes a point where you cross a line from godly repentance and dive headfirst into a self-absorption. When you desire to punish yourself for your sin or put too much focus on it, what you are saying is that Christ’s death was not sufficient for your sin and/or that you think more highly of yourself than you ought to (Romans 12:3). The proper response is confession and repentance, trusting in Christ’s atonement on your behalf (1 John 2:1-2).
There is no excuse for complaining or griping about any circumstance God has provided. All that He does is good and wise; and He has all power to accomplish His ends, through whatever means He desires. No, dear Christian brother or sister, do not complain. Not only that, rejoice that His will is being done. Rejoice that your sins have been forgiven. Rejoice that soon the things we are tempted to complain about will be erased from existence. It will not be long before we are living in perfect in harmony with Him who made us. Rejoice always!There comes a point where you cross a line from godly repentance and dive headfirst into a self-absorption. Click To Tweet