When Life Makes You Want to File a Complaint

Filing Your Complaint by Holley Gerth

{this image and all the ones I create are free for you to use and share}

In small and big ways life is not as it should be—and you want to file a complaint. Yet instantly you think, “I’m not allowed to complain. I must be happy and thankful all the time.” That’s the topic that came up in a conversation last week. We talked about whether or not it’s okay to express negative emotions or opinions. And if it is, then what’s the way God desires for us to do so?

I went home with this topic still on my mind and decided to do some digging to see if I could find an answer. Here’s what I discovered…

First, the word “complain” is hardly used in Scripture (NIV).  And when it is, it’s most often a noun (complaint) not a verb. The phrase “complaining” doesn’t appear at all. Anywhere. Weird, huh?

Like I mentioned above, the word “complaint” is used a few times so let’s look at those together. In one, God says this: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites” (Num. 14:27). From that verse, you might conclude complaining is never allowed. But fast forward to Psalms and we hear David, a man after God’s own heart, say this:

I pour out before him (God) my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.
Ps. 142:2

Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint. Ps. 64:1

When you look at those verses and then back at the one from Numbers, it appears that God is saying, “Even after I heard the complaints of the Israelites they still grumbled against me.” Having a complaint is not the issue. It’s the attitude and expectations behind it. Even after seeing God do numerous miracles and meet their needs again and again, the people of Israel were still accusing him of not being good or helping them. In contrast, David takes his complaint to God with an attitude of trust and belief.

The dictionary has several definitions “complaint” but they all really come down to this: a statement that things are not as we would like for them to be.

We live in a fallen, broken world. We are fallen, broken people. We are going to have complaints. There’s simply no way around it. And I believe God understands that and invites us to come to him in those moments. It’s what we do with those complaints that make the difference.

In Scripture, there are two ways we can file a complaint: grumbling and lamenting. Both are words we don’t use much in our culture anymore. Instead we lump both together under complaining and that seems to lead to a lot of confusion so let’s take a closer look at them.




Accusation against God’s Character and Goodness

Affirmation of Who God Is—No Matter What

Expressing a Demand

Expressing a Desire

Focused on What We Want

Focused on What God Wills

Leads to Discouragement and Fear

Leads to Healing and Courage

Causes Bitterness

Helps Us Get to Breakthroughs

Isolates Us from God and Others

Draws Us Close to God and Others

Displeases God

Honors God

My husband and I recently tried to travel by plane for a speaking engagement. Our flight was delayed and then cancelled. As we waited in line to find out what the airline could do, we overheard a variety of conversations. Many were along the lines of, “My day is completely wrecked. Everything bad always happens to me. These people are idiots. I can’t believe this %$#^% airline.”

One woman stood behind us with a scarf on her head. She clearly had cancer and she simply said, “I wish this hadn’t happened today. I’m tired and frustrated. I want to get where I need to go. The airline will work it out somehow.” Same situation. Very different responses. 

We will have “complaints” in our lives. That simply means there will be times when things are not as we would like for them to be and that’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is responding to those complaints with grumbling.

God wants us to be open with all of our emotions—hurt, anger, disappointment and whatever we may feel. He also wants us to be honest about our desires. It’s the attitude behind how we express our emotions and desires that matters most to him. He warns us against grumbling but he invites us to lament.

When I worked as a counselor, I saw so many Christians who tried to hide their negative feelings because they were afraid of “complaining.” And it never worked out well. God doesn’t want you to ignore or deny what’s hurting you or making you angry.

You are allowed to file complaints in life. God just asks you to do so in a way that honors him, leads to healing in your heart and helps others too. Be open with God. Be honest. Be real about where you are. Tell him what’s in your heart. He’s listening and he will hear you.

File your complaints. Bring them before God and give them to him. You don’t have to hold anything back from the God who promises to hold you through every experience and emotion you have in this life.


Holley Gerth

About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


Never Miss a Thing

Join Holley’s mailing list to receive the latest news, blog posts, and updates

What % Introvert Are You?

 My 1-Minute Quiz Will Tell You

New Book You’ll Love!

Get the Book

Writing Course for You!