Confessing Sin in the Midst of Suffering

I’ve been on a long, hard journey of suffering. Unlike previous trials which let up over time, the last few years of my life have only had new trials added to the previous ones, culminating in a breast cancer diagnosis in July that was compounded by what we thought was a second abdominal cancer found in October (biopsy results finally showed that it is NOT cancer, thank God). Two surgeries later, I was in a really bad mood. I was angry. I was bitter. I was snarky. I could only see the lack, not the good, in people’s actions toward me. I complained to friends who kindly let me vent. And many encouraged me and prayed for me.

Finally, after a few days of wrestling with very dark emotions, the Holy Spirit broke through and strongly convicted me of my sin of complaining.

There is nothing like trying to parent complaining middle school children to remind one of all the verses against complaining. I talk with my boys regularly about facing hardship with a happy attitude, because I know (when I stop complaining myself and actually think about it) that complaining only makes hard things worse. Years ago, my pastor preached a sermon from Philippians on this subject, and it ministered great grace to me. I’ve never forgotten it.  God’s instructions to not complain are a GIFT OF GRACE from Him for us to endure in hard times.

But I had forgotten that truth.

The Lord reminded me in that way only He can orchestrate. My boys have been reading through The Journey, and as my son walked by me, in the midst of my very negative attitude, I asked him about his reading for that day.

“It was on the Israelites being bitten by snakes because they complained, and Moses making a snake on a cross.”

Oh, the arrow of conviction through my heart. The Spirit wasn’t whispering. He was shouting. Complaining destroys the soul. I’m not suffering because of my sin, but my sin certainly doesn’t help me endure in my suffering.

Now, for some, this may sound like legalistic condemnation. Except it’s not. If you listen to the sermon I referenced above, you’ll hear a compelling case for these instructions from God against complaining being help and grace to His children to navigate a harsh, sinful world. I have found them to be that for myself. The bottom line is that, in the middle of my deep and painful suffering, grumbling and complaining do not help me. They won’t help you either. Grumbling and complaining actually weigh our spirits down even more than whatever circumstances we were already facing.

So I confessed my spirit of complaining to God. I submitted to His instructions. He forgave me, and I immediately felt a release of some of the burden weighing me down.

The Bible talks of sin this way. It’s a weight. It’s a burden.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

I was tempted to ignore my sin, to justify it as if I only needed to confess sin when things were going well for me. But complaining doesn’t start or stop being a sin based on how justified I feel in my complaint. In the midst of very deep suffering, I found that acknowledging my sin didn’t create a new weight for me to carry on top of all my other burdens. Instead, it actually LIFTED some of the burden. And that is the profound beauty of the gospel of Christ.

8 Responses to Confessing Sin in the Midst of Suffering

  1. Bina February 14, 2018 at 9:07 am #

    What is the contrast with lament? How do you handle the story of Job? Tremper Longman III says the Hebrew word says Job comforted himself with dust and ashes.

    Maybe it’s that lament is oriented toward God while complaint is oriented away from God? Not sure.

    • Wendy February 14, 2018 at 9:36 am #

      I think lament, like you said is mourning, frustration, even anger oriented toward God, the only righteous outlet for our complaints. But turning toward others, away from God, or turning even internally marks the kind of sinful complaint and grumbling that are disciplined in Scripture.

  2. Kellie Riegel February 15, 2018 at 7:01 am #

    Wendy,

    I have for a long time thought of you as a friend (though we do not know each other!) The Lord has used you to influence and stretch my thinking in many profound ways. Thank you for this post and its truth.

    I will continue to pray for you during these difficult times.

    • Wendy February 15, 2018 at 11:19 am #

      Kellie, I have made a lot of real life friends through this blog. I hope one day we can meet in person and continue that trend. 🙂

  3. Jaime February 15, 2018 at 11:07 am #

    Wendy, I am often blessed by your essays. I, too, will continue to pray for you.

    • Wendy February 15, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      Thank you, Jaime!

  4. Liz February 15, 2018 at 9:39 pm #

    I think and pray for you often.

  5. Ashley February 21, 2018 at 11:53 am #

    Complaints (which for me quickly turns to gossip) has been on my heart a lot lately. Just as your son helped you see the Holy Spirit’s convictions, your truth here has shown the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my own life. Thank you for your honestly in the hard times and easy.