Without Complaining

How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me? ~ Numbers 14:27

The Israelites who were part of the exodus from Egypt murmured, grumbled, and complained – a lot.  They were leaving behind a life of bitter slavery and forced hard labor, yet during their journey many of them looked back on Egypt as better than their current circumstance. These Israelites had witnessed incredible miracles: those that allowed them to leave Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, a pillar of fire to lead them by night and a pillar of smoke by day, food miraculously appeared for them each night, and yet their hearts were not grateful. All of the signs of the presence of God did not quiet their grumbling. The Israelites were the chosen people of God not because of their strength or numbers (Deuteronomy 7:7) or because of their temperament (Deuteronomy 31:27) but because God had made a promise to their ancestor Abraham and God always keeps his promises.

Do you have kids or know kids?  Kids often make statements like "I'm thirsty" which is different, in my opinion, from the question "May I have a drink of water?" which is again different from the request "Would you please get me some water?".  The thirsty kids know what they need.  It is just harder to ask directly than to imply.  The Israelites did this also, they complained extensively about their circumstances.  At one point they were so angry at their situation that Moses said to God "These people are ready to stone me"  (Exodus 17:4). Yet nobody ever asked for what they were lacking.

As a parent I don't mind if my kids ask me for things, especially if it is something they need.  I get a little frustrated if they complain a lot about being thirsty without taking care of it themselves or asking me to help.  The Israelites took this even a step farther and complained against God.  Rather than feeling and showing gratitude for their rescue from slavery, they remembered their slavery as good times of plenty.  Rather than holding on to the hope of God's promises, they allowed themselves to become mired in the trials of their daily life.  No wonder God was angry.

I've used kids and the Israelites to illustrate the point that complaining is not an effective way to get what you want, but I'm as guilty as anyone.  Complaining comes so naturally.  There are any number of situations that are not ideal and when we dwell on what is lacking instead of what is given or what is promised, complaining is sure to follow, even if its not voiced.

When we are not deeply troubled by adversity there is no need to practice stoicism.  Our treasure is not in this world and our joy and hope for our future cannot be shaken by anything that is in this world.  Our treasure is safer than Fort Knox.  In light of this great gift, it is no wonder that God does not like us to complain.  When we trust God and our peace is sincere we shine like a lighthouse in the midst of a storm.

Do all things without complaining or disputing that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  ~Philippians 2:14-15

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