Ranting has almost become an artform on the internet. On message boards and blogs, the web is a place to vent about the things that have annoyed us in the world, and maybe find others who share the same irritation. Sometimes it can get a bit out of hand (for instance, Christians who are irate about Pat Robertson's comments on the Haitian earthquake -- no need to call for his death, no need for those "Call him home, God" comments). But it has become the socially acceptible place to rant, a lot.
I indulge in ranting as much as the next person. I'm a firm believer in the need to vent negative feelings as quickly as possible, because they can be toxic to the soul.
But I also think there is a danger in ranting too much. It can lead to giving into bitterness about how life has gone on, at all the things we wanted but never got, about how the world does not revolve in our direction, at our direction. It can be very easy to wallow in hurt feelings, frustration, resentment. But, thank God, it is not a sin to rant.
In the Bible, Job rants. David rants in the Psalms. Jeremiah rants a bit too (you thought "Lamentations" was a love song?). Even Jesus rants some -- when overthrowing the moneychangers in the Temple. That's hardly a meek and mild discourse there. To a certain degree, he even rants in the Garden of Gethsemene. "Let this cup pass" -- that's easily a "Why me? Why now? Do I have to?" type rant.
God is not offended by ranting, not even rants where we blame Him for every negative and unfortunate thing that happens to us. He doesn't withdraw from ranters, no matter how virtriolic we get.
That said, God does have a response to ranters. But it isn't always easy for us to swallow. In Job 38: 1-5, He has this to say --
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know."
Ah ha! Divine sarcasm!
Even Jesus got a "no" to the "Let the cup pass" request. But Jesus at least knew there was a reason behind what was to come.
That tends to be where we fall short -- we don't know the Big Picture of God's design. We often can't even see two feet or two seconds into what's in front of us. Often our ranting springs from our Not Knowing. We're afraid of what we don't know, especially when it is close in our lives.
Jeremiah sent a letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, about how they were to abide in that place, pray for it, and for its welfare. Even though this is very much what the Exiles did not want to do. But Jeremiah tells them why, the word he'd gotten from the Lord. (Jeremiah 29: 11-14)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you," declares the Lord, "and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile."
And that's the coolest thing. No matter how wild we get in ranting, our ranting and raving cannot separate us from that promise of the Lord's. He is not going to turn away. Unless we choose to think that He's not listening. But He doesn't ask us to stop with the ranting, not if we still need to vent. He just occasionally steps back and reminds us that He's the one who knows the Big Picture. "Be silent and know that I am God" (Psalm 46: 10) Or as the New American Standard translates it, "Cease striving and know that I am God."
Maybe I should give that a try a bit more often. Ya think?