Please vent to God, not to people
Venting and articulating our inner frustrations and hurts helps release our emotional pains. Our bodies need a way to let our negative emotions out and not suppress them. There are, however, godly and ungodly ways to “let off steam“. It may surprise us to know that the healthy way to vent is to take all our grievances directly to God, and not to other people. Venting to other people often blinds us to the work that God is doing in our lives. Venting to God however, allows Him to minister to us directly.
Venting is different from seeking wise counsel from others or assistance against abuse. Unhealthy venting involves voicing our judgments and grievances towards other people, simply so we feel better. Seeking wise counsel focuses on how we can address real or perceived injustices in godly ways, so we represent Jesus Christ better. Some cases of severe abuse should be brought to the relevant authorities, and not just our family or friends.
A contrast between King David and Job
King David, who was “a man after God’s own heart”, wrote many psalms of heart-wrenching protest and lament about his circumstances and his enemies. In Psalm 142, David said that he “pours out his complaints to God and tells Him his troubles.” At first glance, David’s vents can appear to be disrespectful outbursts towards his Heavenly Father, yet God never stopped David from expressing himself.
Acts 13:22 ESV And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
Psalm 142:1-2 ESV With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
On the other hand, Job, who is described in the Bible as “blameless and upright”, spent several days venting to his friends about his great family tragedies and personal trauma. Just like King David, Job’s sufferings were very real and painful but unfortunately, he went to the wrong comforters. By venting to his friends, he caused them to sin as they responded with ungodly advice and views. God subsequently confronted Job in person with a series of questions that pointed to the Creator’s sovereignty and Job’s ignorance (Job 38-41). Humbled and wiser, Job repented and also prayed for his friends to be forgiven.
Job 1:1 ESV There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
Job 38:1-5 ESV Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
Job 42:7-8 ESV After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has… And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
God will hear our outbursts
Even though God knows everything about us and every word before we even say it, He desires an authentic, intimate, and no-holds-barred relationship with us, where we feel secure and safe enough to tell Him everything that is on our minds and troubling our hearts.
He doesn’t want us to burden other human beings with our problems. He is vast enough to take on the complaints and grievances of the entire human race. He will never reject us when we go to Him with ours.
Psalm 66:17-20 ESV I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Why we should not vent to people
1. Venting is a complaint against God’s sovereignty
Venting is simply a nicer word for grumbling. When we are unhappy with our circumstances or what people do to us, we may feel the need to complain or whine about it. Venting, however, blinds us to God’s sovereignty and ignores the fact that we care called to “shine as lights in this world“, not spread more grief and unhappiness.
Philippians 2:14-15 ESV Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Believers vent when we lose sight of the bigger picture; that God is in control and has a higher plan. We focus on the things of this world instead of things that are above. When we vent, we seldom exemplify Jesus to others.
Colossians 3:1-2 ESV If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
2. Venting is a form of judgment and slander
Most times, we only vent when things don’t go according to our plans, our ways, and our timing. Venting often does not take other people’s situations and stresses into consideration. It puts the focus on ourselves and makes us the judge of other people’s behaviour. The words that come out of our mouth are tainted with ungodly emotions and judgments.
Colossians 3:8 ESV But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
3. Venting is unkind to those we complain to
As we vent, we are not only being unkind towards our offenders, but also towards those whom we grumble to. Our complaints against other people are often driven by fear, pride, self-righteousness, and impatience. If we are honest with ourselves, we would not want to be the recipients of our own sinful emotional baggage. Everyone has enough stresses to carry on their own.
James 5:9 ESV Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
4. Venting can lead others to sin
It is virtually impossible for anyone who has heard us vent not to be affected by our words and emotions. Our friends and family will usually end up judging the same people that we do and join us in our sins. It doesn’t matter that they will never meet our offenders, because they would have already judged them in their hearts. God judges our hearts, not just our actions or words.
Jeremiah 17:10 ESV “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
5. Venting is driven by a fear of our offenders
We often vent to other people because we are afraid of lovingly and wisely confronting those that we have issues with. Instead, we talk and gossip about them behind their backs. This is a reaction driven by fear and insecurity, qualities that do not honour God.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
6. Venting indulges our emotions, not the Holy Spirit
We indulge our emotions whenever we vent to other people. We let our fleshly emotions and judgments steer our thinking and mood. The Bible points out that we are foolish if we fail to withhold our emotional outbursts.
Proverbs 29:11 ESV A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Venting to God
How can we overcome our habit of venting and turn to more godly ways of letting off steam?
1. First, check why we feel the need to vent
Whenever someone reacts strongly to a word, person or event, we need to ask if there could be deeper issues that triggered such a response.
Before we react and jump to venting next time, we should first ask ourselves, “Why am I so upset in the first place?“ We may find that something reminds us of feeling rejected, misunderstood, or overlooked in the past. We may realise that there are people whom we have yet to forgive, curses we need to reject, inner vows we ought to repent of and so forth. Or we might find that we are still hurting from some unkind words that were spoken to us as children, and need God to heal our wounds. It is always tremendously helpful to do some soul searching to understand why we are inclined to do things that we do, rather than just react without thinking. In this way, we will develop the wisdom to overcome our ungodly tendencies and patterns.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
2. Vent to God and cry out for His help and wisdom
God invites us to cast our burdens directly on Him.
Psalm 55:22 ESV Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
When we vent to God, we lay down our feelings before the One who created all our emotions and confess our fears and anxieties. Who better than our Maker to understand and empathise with all that we are going through? Who else is bigger and stronger than God to help us through our circumstances? God is the One who is in control of all things at all times.
Going back to King David’s example, we see that David didn’t hold back from venting and casting his grievances on to God. Psalm 69 is one of many examples of David “letting off steam” before God. Let us follow David’s example and go directly to our Heavenly Father.
Psalm 69:18-21 NLT Come and redeem me; free me from my enemies. You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
3. Remember, all our conversations are recorded in heaven
One day, all our conversations on earth will be played back to us in heaven, and we will be asked to give an account for every careless word that we have said to other people. On that day, let us be glad that we used our words to glorify God instead of mindlessly venting and slandering other people.
Matthew 12:36-37 ESV I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
4. Seek prayer and counsel when needed
Our emotions can get the better of us and make it difficult for us to see our circumstances objectively. Seeking counsel from a fellow brother or sister in Christ who can provide a neutral third-party point of view and identify our blind spots is a wise option. God-fearing believers will also pray with us for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom.
Proverbs 12:15 ESV The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
James 1:5 ESV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
To avoid gossiping about others, let us keep the focus on how we can improve and leave out any names or details that would implicate others. It is always helpful to imagine that all the people we have grievances about are present in the same room as we seek counsel. This will help us be more aware of our words and keep our conversations honouring and pleasing to God.
5. Train our tolerance levels
Each time we respond badly to our circumstances, we have allowed our situations to overcome us and beat us down. It is much wiser to overlook offences quickly, forgive people readily, and do all things with joy. If it’s not a matter of life and death, we need to evaluate if it is really worth getting upset about.
Proverbs 19:11 ESV Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Let us not allow our circumstances or other people to rob the joy, peace and hope that Jesus came to give us. Instead, let us use them as opportunities to train ourselves to confront difficult people with soft, wise and humble answers that are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Slow our emotions down, so we can exhibit more of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. All this requires daily training in developing higher tolerance levels for the brokenness and unjust situations around us every day. Praise God that each new circumstance is another opportunity to train ourselves in godliness.
Proverbs 15:1 ESV A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
6. Remember to trust God
Above all, we need to remind ourselves that God is in control of all our circumstances, not just partially but completely. Sometimes, things will get quite bad before they can become better. We simply need to trust God and not lean on our own understanding. At the proper time, He will lift us up from our circumstances and show us all the wonderful things that He has done around us. After we have vented and “said our peace” with God, we can praise Him for giving us the opportunity to witness His glory and majesty as we wait patiently for His plans to unfold.
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
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