Groaning in suffering builds intimacy

By Dave Henning / December 23, 2017

“The difference between grumbling and groaning has a similar effect on intimacy, whether with God or with people: Groaning in suffering builds intimacy.  Grumbling destroys intimacy.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg continues Chapter 10 of I’d Like You More . . .  as he offers additional distinctions between groaning and grumbling.  John takes special note that, in the Bible, people groaned on their knees.  Because sorrow, suffering, and adversity drove them there.  In contrast, people grumbled privately in their tents.  There they felt free to exaggerate, play the victim, and thus excuse their own lack of obedience.  Pastor Ortberg summarizes:


  • builds intimacy with God and people
  • you speak directly to God – holding nothing back
  • views suffering in the larger context of others who have suffered
  • includes awareness of our own sin – confession
  • calls us to be our best selves; honest struggle to cling to God in difficulty
  • God-centered, even when God seems absent


  • destroys intimacy
  • contagious
  • you exaggerate suffering to justify your negative attitude
  • makes irritations and inconveniences known to everyone around you

Therefore, Pastor Ortberg stresses, when other people experience trouble, sensitive people just show up.  Thus, they provide a ministry of presence.  In addition, sensitive people:

  1. learn not to compare.  Since each instance of suffering is unique, each sufferer responds in his/her own unique way.  As a result, comparison fails to help the situation.
  2. do practical things.  John states that helpful people never say, “If I can do anything, please call me.”  Because helpful people know how hollow that statement rings.  Rather than waiting for a call, they just act.
  3. don’t try to comfort prematurely.  Sensitive people don’t pretend to have answers or seek to lessen the pain with an explanation.  Instead, they allow the dignity of suffering.
  4. watch for surprising moments of gratitude.

Today’s question: Currently, what describes your response to adversity – groaning or grumbling?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Moving on the wave of God”

About the author

Dave Henning

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