Grumble vs. Lament

One of the books I am reading is John Janaro’s Never Give Up: My Life and God’s Mercy. Janero is a theology professor who suffers from a debilitating physical illness, chronic depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. His aim in his book is to provide reflections for all of those who suffer, especially those who suffer from chronic physical disability or mental/emotional illness.

In talking about the temptation to grumble to God about the unfairness of his situation, he distinguishes between grumbling and lament. He writes.

I think it is important to distinguish between the grumble and the lament. Both can express themselves as “God, why are you doing this to me?” But they mean two different things. The lament is a prayer; read the Psalms. It is a cry of pain – the pain that a creature feels under the weight of the transforming pressure of the divine Creator and Lover, who carries out his mysterious plan in my life via an incomprehensible suffering. The grumble, on the other hand, is a loss of trust in God motivated by my own misery.

Janero’s example of grumbling is the Israelites in the desert. God delivers them from slavery and they grumble about having no food to eat. Note, they don’t pray to God for food; they simply grumble, “Why did we leave Egypt.” Then God sends them manna and the grumble about eating the same thing day after day. Again, no prayer, simply the grumble, “In Egypt we had meat.”

We see very different behavior in Jeremiah, who curses the day he was born, wondering why he came “forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow,” BUT who in the midst of his lament prays to God, revealing his trust in God.

When things are rough, do we grumble or lament? Do we recognize the difference?