The Temptation to Complain

Photo by Beth Drendel
Photo by Beth Drendel

Why should any living man complain?[i] You are alive! Therefore, you have hope.

Your life, no doubt, has not gone the way you hoped it would. Looking back, there may be many regrets. You may deeply wish that you had known then what you know now, and if only you had some foresight, some sheer luck perhaps, things would be much different.

But things are what they are, and no amount of wishful thinking will change the course of events that have happened to this point.

Have you made mistakes? Be honest! We all make mistakes, and not just mistakes of choice – we all do things we should not have done. We have all done things that we knew we should not have done because they were not right.

We try to “redeem” those mistakes. Sometimes, we try to redeem them by re-characterizing our actions, thoughts and decisions, owning them as if they were right because they are who we are.

That is the temptation of modern life. “Be who you are” – whatever that may be. “Never apologize for who you are”.

But who are you?

Are you your own person?

That may seem like a silly, foolish question, but I beg you that it’s not.

Are you the captain of your own soul? Be honest!

I know you want to be. I know you wish you were.That desire to the captain of your own soul is the human condition. But are you?

Think about the foresight you wish you had – the knowledge now that you wish you had then.

Would you have made the same choices? Done the same things? I know you think not, but the very fact that you are ruing this suggests that you might not be completely honest with yourself.

Are you the captain of your own soul? Really?

I think we like to claim we are in control of our own destinies, like the fly on the back of the chariot admiring the dust he thinks he causes to rise. Maybe it is like the coal car hurtling down the mountainside on tracks it did not make, heading to an end it did not design, not knowing whether it will jump the tracks or reach the end, whatever it may be, but “owning” the ride.

Why should any living man complain in view of his sins?

That is the full verse, as it is taken from Lamentations. We should not complain about our lot, as we are alive! There is hope! – but all the  more so in view of our sins.

We have missed the mark. We have fallen short, not just of our own ideals, but of God – the Captain of our souls.

This body we did not choose to inhabit in this world we did not create, hurtling toward an end we know not what is our lot in life, and we had little to do with it.

If there is purpose in life, and I am certain of that fact, the purpose is not primarily ours. The purpose in life lies elsewhere. It lies outside of us in the bigger picture of God and His creation.

“Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.”[ii]

Our hope is not in ourselves. Our hope is in the Lord who made us and He who loves us. We have not only missed marks we set for ourselves – as if we could control that much of life – we have missed the mark God set for us.

I speak to myself, first and foremost. If you see anything of yourself in this, may these words speak to you as well.

Now is the time to return to God.

We lift up our hearts and hands toward God in heaven.[iii]

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored![iv]


[i] Lamentations 3:39

[ii] Lamentations 3:40

[iii] Lamentations 3:41

[iv] Lamentations 5:21

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