Chapter 7 of AWE: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, & Do by Paul David Tripp
A Review by Pastor Aaron Adame
“Complaint is awelessness verbalized” (98).
Let me start by saying this: This was a really good chapter. Not because I liked the topic, in fact, like a neurologist working on a spinal cord, Paul David Tripp was getting a little too close to the nerve for comfort on this one. I remember hearing a really good quote a while back—I heard it from Loren Lesher, who was quoting someone else—"Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% our response to it.” Though the mathematics of this equation can be debated, the point is still true: much of the content of our lives is more about how we respond to situations and circumstances than the circumstances themselves. And as believers, our response says less about how we feel or think about a particular situation and more about the God who is above our situations. These reactions reveal what our true and deep-seated beliefs about God are. And sadly, oftentimes, we find ourselves having an attitude of complaint.
I loved this quote from the chapter:
"Life in this fallen world is hard. God does orchestrate difficulties in my life that I would never have chosen to face. But the words of Israel demonstrate that their complaint was not just about their circumstances but about God. If praise is celebrating God’s awesome glory, then complaint is anti-praise. Not only does complaint fail to recognize his grandeur, it questions his power and character" (98).
This quote followed shortly after Tripp referenced the response of the Israelites when they grumbled against the Lord as they journeyed out of Egypt. The source of their complaint was that they didn’t like how God was moving. He wasn’t living up to their expectations of Him. And so, they grumbled, they complained. And because of that, God judged that generation and did not allow them into the Promised Land.
The truth is we all complain. We all have those moments when we are bummed that things are the way they are. There are those moments and situations where we convince ourselves that we didn’t get a fair shake. We complain about our parents, our boss, our house, our marriages, and even our churches. And what Tripp is helping us to see, is that though things may not be the way they are supposed to be, complaining questions God’s ability and desire to use that situation or relationship for your good or someone else’s good.
So, because we all have a propensity for complaint, perhaps a good antidote would be to go to God with that complaint. Psalm 73 is a great example of this. The Psalmist is complaining that he sees those in the world, those who have no desire to know or love God, prospering. Meanwhile, the godly, those who seek God’s face, are suffering. And he’s complaining to himself about this, and probably to his friends as well. How can life be this way, he grumbled? But the riddle of his complaint was solved when he brought it to the sanctuary of God.
Where do you go with your complaints? Do you gripe to others about life? Or do you go to God and tell Him: “God, this doesn’t make sense to me! Help me to understand.”
But the reason why people don’t complain to God is because, in a deeper sense, they blame God for their situation. And to this, Tripp gave five reorienting questions to ask yourself or someone else when you or they are complaining.
1. Is God good? The fact is, you won’t trust someone if you don’t think that they are good. But God is good! All that He does is good. He doesn’t author evil but He is able to turn all the bad things in this world and work them out for good in the lives of His children (Rom 8:28-29).
2. Will God do what He promised? This question really is this: can I trust His Word? Do I believe God will do what He said He will do? So often, we trust God’s Word, but we complain about His methods. That’s where Israel messed up. They wanted deliverance, but not in the way God was going to bring that deliverance about. God will do what He promised, but He has not promised to do it in the way we often think or want Him to.
3. Is God in control? This question reminded me of that cliché, “Jesus is either Lord of ALL or he is not Lord at all.” Isaiah 59:1 says this, “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull that he cannot hear.” There is not a square centimeter of creation that God is not fully under God’s control.
4. Does God have the needed power? What is so odd is that people often complain to other people who have no power to fix our situation. Which means, people just like to complain. This is why it is so important to bring that complaint to God, because He actually has the power to do something about it. Let me clarify what I mean, we complain TO God, not AT God.
5. Does God care about me? Here’s the really good news: God isn’t just good and trustworthy and fully in control, exercising complete power over creation, but He cares about you and what you are going through. God loves you and has a plan and good purpose for every event of your life. Even if you lose everything, that may be the greatest good—but only a faith in the God of Scripture can believe that.
I will close with another quote from the chapter:
"Every word spoken in complaint, every murmur of grumbling is deeply theological. Our problem is not that the “good life” has passed us by, that people have failed us, or that life has been hard. All these things have happened to us because we live in a broken world. And if our contentment rests on life being easy, comfortable, and pleasurable, we’ll have no contentment this side of eternity. We complain so much not because we have horizontal problems but because we have a vertical [awe] problem" (105).