Griping and whining is not allowed, but complaining and groaning is acceptable.
Non-Christians groan due to the consequences of sin. This world is not utopia, and they long for peace and prosperity. As they continue to make decisions apart from the will of God, they further harm themselves. Like the unwise man presented in Ecclesiastes, they chase one fantasy after another seeking to find comfort. They are cursed. They are never satisfied. They are never content, and therefore they groan.
Additionally, the earth groans. Ever since God witnessed the fall of Adam and Eve, and proclaimed his curse upon the planet, the world has been groaning for redemption. The planet is like a mother giving birth; she is going through pain and travail at the present time, but there will come a day when her future will be quite glorious. (Romans 8:22)
I believe Jesus groaned as he walked towards Jerusalem. The Scripture says “he wept,” but I can imagine he groaned. Surely he groaned in the Garden of Gethsemane as he contemplated the disaster before him. Blood flowed forth from his head due to his passionate prayer. He begged his friends to pray with him. He needed assistance from the angels. I think he groaned in the Garden on the night of his betrayal, arrest, interrogation and torture. However, without a doubt, he groaned on the cross. While writhing in pain he contemplated Scripture. While hanging on the cursed tree, he prayed along with David, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1-2; Matthew 27:46)
Therefore, because Jesus is our model, it is acceptable for Christians to groan. Those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, they should groan as they wait for the New Heavens, the New Earth and their new bodies. They should be so weary of this current world order and so tired of being tempted by the world, the flesh and the devil that they groan. They should long so much for righteousness to reign and paradise to be restored that they complain. (Psalms 32:1-4; 38:6-8; 102:1-5; Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:2-3) And they will have help in their groaning, for the Holy Spirit groans. As Christians pray for holiness and glory, the Holy Spirit speaks the Father’s language and intercedes for them with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
So, it should not be surprising when we reach Job 23 and hear him groaning. One should not see this as weakness or sin. One is being privileged to see the heart of a blameless and upright man who is in agony. And it is my aim to help you groan in prayer today. Perhaps the following paraphrase of chapter twenty-three will help you better groan:
Oh God, hear my bitter complaint. Hear my passionate groaning. I would lift up my hands to you in prayer, but they are so heavy right now. Where are you? Oh, how I long to find you. Where is your seat? Where is your throne? I have things to say to you. I need you to hear my arguments. Yes, I know quite well that you are God, and I am but a mere man. I know that you are the Almighty; you are the Fearsome One with sovereign power who does whatsoever he desires. But I also know that you have redeemed me. I am your child. You are my Father. I also know and proclaim that I am not living in willful sin. I have confessed my sin. I have repented of my transgressions, and I am upright. I am holy and blameless in your sight. Therefore, because of the Redeemer, my relationship with you, and my faithful worship, I am confident you will hear my case. You will listen to me and you do care. And oh, I am ready to listen to you. I am ready to be taught. I am ready to understand. But I cannot seem to hear your voice. I cannot seem to find you. But in this day of experiential darkness, I find solace in this fact. You know the way that I take. You are the one who is testing me. You are the one who will bring me through the purging fires of trial. You will bring me out as refined gold. So my foot will walk in your paths. I will keep your way. I will keep your commandments. I will not turn aside. I will treasure the words of Scripture that I have while you continue to mysteriously allow harm to come my way. All the while knowing that you are sovereign, unchangeable, confusing, and terrifying. You are making my heart faint, and I will not be silent. I will talk with you in prayer while I walk through this valley of the shadow of death. I will complain and groan until the day you answer.