Permission to Complain

Rob Spykstra

You’ve made the polite but inauthentic query at work. “How are you doing?” You are expecting the one word reply, “great” or “fine” only to be stopped in your tracks with, “terrible.” Brutal honesty, it can be refreshing. 

This is why I value Psalm 44. The psalmist vividly expresses his perceived, angry reality of loyalty to God. “In God we have boasted continually . . . but you have rejected us and disgraced us” (8-9). Or this vivid expression, “You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them” (12). Psalm 44 stops us in our tracks. Brutally refreshing.

We are in good company to value this psalm. The apostle Paul in his glorious expression of the inseparable nature of God’s love for His covenant people copies verse 22, “For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom. 8:36). The psalmist’s perception; Paul’s perception centuries later; our perception is the same. Loyalty to God in this world doesn’t pay. Or as one upper school student expressed, “Life is hard, and I may have another 60 years of it.” 

As we experience the brokenness around us and in us, we agree with the psalmist, “You have rejected us and disgraced us” (9a). As we watch our world go off the rails, we agree with the psalmist, “those who hate us have gotten the spoil” (10). In agreement we cry out, “Why are you sleeping, O Lord?” (23a). 

It is this brutal honesty that is so refreshing. For God gives us not only permission to complain, but to do the unthinkable, commanding: “Awake . . . Rouse yourself . . . Rise up; come to our help” (23,26a). We have permission not because God has failed. On the contrary, it is God’s delight to glorify His steadfast love as we are bold and command, “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” (26b).

Rob Spykstra has been part of the classical Christian movement for nearly twenty years, first as a homeschool dad, then as a fundraiser, and now as a headmaster. Rob is married to Tamra. They have four children, all classically trained. He serves as an elder at Sacred City Church. Tamra and Rob enjoy hiking and walking particularly in Rob’s home state of Colorado.

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