Stiff Upper Lip
Greg Spires – Teaching Pastor
The British have a reputation for enduring hardship with realism and resolve. This “stiff upper lip” attitude can be summed up as a “no sense in whinging [complaining], that won’t help much” attitude.
This mentality was captured in a poster campaign in the lead up to WWII. While the posters in their day weren’t popular, and the morale campaign behind their production was not considered successful, they capture this spirit. One of the more well-known slogans from these posters is: "Keep Calm and Carry On." One of the other slogans read, “Your courage, your cheerfulness, and your resolution will bring us victory."
With this in mind, when we read Malachi 3:13, we might assume God doesn't like whining. The verse reads, "Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’” The issue at play was that the people didn’t feel that obeying God brought benefits. As a result, they concluded that serving God was a waste of time.
We might understand why God would be offended at their disobedience. But isn’t it a little petty for God to be worried about their words? And does this mean that we need to make sure that God isn't offended by our whining?
We need to make a distinction between “lament” and “complaint.” At the doctor's office when we get a shot, we might tell the nurse, "That hurt!" This would be a lament. This states what is going on and the effect it had. A complaint, on the other hand, would be to say to the nurse, "You hurt me!" A complaint goes beyond lament because it casts blame – especially on someone who is seeking to provide useful help.
Psalm 42:10-11 is an excellent example of lament. It says, "As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
In this lament, the Psalmist does not pull any punches on the reality of his situation: surrounded by mocking enemies he fears for his life. However, remember that the blame for that is on the enemies, not God; he reminds himself to trust in God, who is his salvation.
But what if we do complain to God? Sometimes, whether it is right or not, we get upset about God’s dealings with us. In those moments, we must also remember that God is full of grace and mercy. As we learn in Malachi 3:6, God's grace and mercy are unchanging.
However, one of the things we can do to minimize our complaints is to learn how to lament. There is no "stiff upper lip" fruit of the Spirit. There is no "keep calm and carry on" spiritual gift. It is Biblical, spiritual, right, good, and worshipful to come to God with a prayer of, “This hurts!” He hears, knows, and will respond with His strength and grace.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Malachi 3:13-15.
See you Sunday,