The other day I read an essay written in 1702 by Wilhelmus a` Brakel, a Dutch pastor, who was writing about God’s acting through His free grace in bringing people to saving faith in Christ, and the consequent ways in which this faith might show itself in their lives. Late in the essay a pair of sentences just jumped off the page at me. They said, “Persevere in seeking the Lord. And friends, let me add that he who can pray ought never to complain.”
By way of context a` Brakel was writing about the Lord’s directing a believer’s path. In some cases God’s love may be clearly evident in a person’s life. But there may also be times when it may please the Lord to lead in a way of darkness. The story of Job comes to mind as an example of the latter, where Job went through a very difficult and challenging time, a time that was ultimately to God’s glory as Job remained faithful to God. This is an example of the dark places at which a` Brakel commends perseverance in faith and trust in God.
The phrase of a` Brakel that continues to stick in my mind is “he who can pray ought never to complain.” According to an online dictionary “to complain” means: “to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault; to tell of one's pains, ailments; or to make a formal accusation.” By the reasoning of the world Job was easily justified in making complaint to God over his circumstances.
By a` Brakel’s reasoning, if a person can pray then complaint should be removed as an option when their circumstances aren't to their liking. My human mind wants to rebel at this suggestion. It wants to keep the option of complaint alive. It wants to keep the option of complaint inside my toolbox so I can use it as I see fit. But a` Brakel is wise in suggesting that I discard complaint. The only reason he gives is that we have available the option of prayer, and that reason alone is more than sufficient.
In Hebrews 4:14-16 we have a biblical rationale for resting in prayer,
"Since then we have a great high priest who was passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
There is a lot of injustice in the world that we will never fully understand this side of heaven. There are often things going on in my life that I just don’t get, things that I would much rather turn out a different way.
God’s Word in Hebrews reminds us that Jesus has already experienced everything that we can imagine of the brokenness in the world and in our lives, at least as we see them from our vantage point. But we don’t have God’s vantage point.
What we do have is Jesus, to whom we can turn, in prayer, knowing that we will always receive His grace and mercy. And His grace and mercy are infinitely more satisfying than anything that could come from a complaint.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.