Help for Life Challenges

How can I share my pain with God without murmuring?

A woman kneels and looks at the sunset.
Sharing our difficult feelings with God is vital to building an authentic relationship with Him.
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Being vulnerable is scary. Letting someone witness our pain or weaknesses requires trust, humility, and honesty.

This kind of openness is a risk, yet it’s a vital gift—one that strengthens relationships and builds closeness in no other way. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

We understand the importance of opening our hearts and breaking down emotional walls in earthly relationships, but many of us shy away from sharing difficult feelings with God. We worry that communicating our pain might be faithless or irreverent, and it can feel safer to sweep our frustrations under the rug.

But lament is a form of worship, too—an essential element to building an authentic relationship with God and accepting His love.

On the All In podcast, Morgan Pearson recently interviewed author Michael Huston about his new book Even in the Darkest Hour: Lament as a Path to God. He spoke about how lament is just as much a part of a covenant relationship with God as faith, praise, and gratitude. Michael suggests that refusing to lament can hinder our spiritual progress, even when withholding our difficult feelings might come from good intentions:

“If we are never able to say to our spouse or our significant other, … ‘I hurt,’ then what’s happening is the relationship is never really open. You’re always holding something back. …

“If we want to know God, we have to be able to have all of us out there, not just the pretty parts and the parts that sound good—all of us. … If we don't have the trust in God that we can say how we feel, how can we expect to build the type of relationship that can carry us through the eternities?”

Being honest with Him in our moments of pain may not make the challenge go away, but it can help us learn what His divine presence feels like and turn to Him during uncertainty.

Michael pointed out there are key differences between murmuring and lamenting. He referenced Elder Neil A. Maxwell’s talk “Murmur Not,” which describes murmuring as indirect complaints about God that are intended to provoke others. By contrast, lamenting involves addressing and petitioning God and eventually turning to worship or gratitude.

While the gap between expressing pain and turning to praise is often small in the scriptures, Michael suggests that our life experiences are much less compressed.

And we don’t always get to the resolution, either. No matter the outcome, bringing our faithful complaints directly to God is still valuable and an important way to worship Him.

“In Psalm 88, there is no turn,” Michael explained. “It's just lament, and it ends in lament. … We don’t always have to get to the turn. Sometimes, just the expression of pain is enough if that's all that we can muster.”

We can also lament to God during moments of uncertainty or a “faith crisis.” Michael feels that sometimes we can misunderstand what it means to have faith when we’re grappling to understand something, assuming we must immediately turn to praise or thanksgiving when we don’t understand something:

“Lament is for moments of uncertainty. … There is still a way and a language to hold to God … from within that uncertainty. … And I don’t mean to say that the purpose of lament is to keep people in the Church because that’s not what it’s for. But it’s a spiritual tool that [many] people just don’t know about. And I feel like a lot of people who are in those moments of really deep pain and sadness that sometimes accompany a faith crisis would benefit from the ability to say out loud to God, ‘I don’t understand. Why is this happening?’”

Listen to the full episode in the player below or on your favorite streaming platform. 

▶You may also like: Lamenting our grief and pain to God might be one of the best things we can do for our faith

Even in the Darkest Hour

For many of us, faith and hard work are often seen as the keys to overcoming challenges. But what does it look like to stay faithful when “more faith” and “more work” do not make things better? What does one say when one cannot express praise? How do we maintain connection to God from within our pain? In Even in the Darkest Hour, Michael Huston illustrates how a close relationship with God is premised on authenticity: including sincere, faithful expressions of our frustration, anger, and pain.

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