Are you a grumbler?
Most of us would prefer to say we are not, but it is more likely that we have all been guilty of grumbling from time to time even though the degree and frequency of our grumbling can definitely vary.
To be exact, grumble is a verb defined as follows:
“complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way”
Sometimes others may not hear us do it as we walk away grumbling under our breath about something that didn’t go our way or frustrated us. It doesn’t absolve us of the action or attitude, however.
When I was growing up, our home had a copy of the famed series, Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, which were originally published in the 1920’s. (No, I am not that old!) There were 5 volumes and each in a different color with short stories packed into each that always had a lesson to learn tucked within the story.
When I became a parent, the books moved to my house and a bit later I passed the volumes on to our daughter. It is somehow fascinating that all these years later some of those stories are still etched in my memory.
One of those that I recall especially well was entitled “Little Miss Grumbleton” and was about a cure for grumbling. The little girl in the story has a habit of grumbling. As a result of this bad habit, she has a consequence of being required to eat a meal she complained about when it was set before her. You see the meal was cold and not very tasty when it came time for the next meal. Everyone else in the family was enjoying a delicious hot meal while she was required to eat what she had not eaten the previous meal.
As the story goes, the little girl never makes that mistake again and is cured of the habit of grumbling. Who wants to eat a cold meal that was left on the table for hours when everyone else is enjoying a fresh hot meal?
Grumbling has been around since mankind was created and tends to represent a lack of gratitude. We see it in lots of places in the Bible.
One of the places we most often think of is in the book of Exodus with the Israelites as Moses goes about following God’s plan to be freed from slavery and enter the land He promised them. It can be easy for us all these years later to be critical of how they handled this “adventure,” but if we consider what their experience had been for more than 400 years we might discover our responses might have been similar.
Think for a moment. Pharaoh’s chariots chase you and thousands of others and there you are facing the Red Sea. Panic would be a given and then God parts the waters and you walk safely on dry ground to the other side. As you look over your shoulder as the last person reaches the shore, the waters fall back into the path you just walked on and all those chasing you are destroyed. You see God show up in a big way and likely expect He will have your back in the days ahead.
But then you are out there in the wilderness and the water you brought with you is nearly gone. Your animals are thirsty and so are you. It has been three days in the desert without water and they arrive at a place called Marah where there is water, but it is undrinkable. They are upset and frustrated and the grumbling starts and builds. Most of us would be the same.
They had seen the Egyptians destroyed in the Red Sea and were following the pillar of cloud God had provided so they must have known He was aware of their location and what the landscape was like as well as the condition of the water at Marah. This was their first big test and they were not handling it well.
What these people had experienced during the plagues in Egypt and the destruction of the Egyptian charioteers at the Red Sea caused them to expect they were going to continue to move along without difficulty.
As a result, they failed to trust God to provide the water even if they couldn’t humanly see how He would do it. He had demonstrated what He could do many times over, but trust was still not resident within them.
You might be thinking it was so obvious that it should have been clear to them that God would provide, but ever since the Garden of Eden mankind has faltered in trusting God’s goodness.
Grumbling and complaining when our expectations are not met has been a long-standing habit for us. It continues to the present day and it gives evidence to a flaw to trust or have faith.
It can be difficult for us to determine if we are experiencing a test or consequences of being involved in something we should not have gotten involved in.
Our challenge is to remember God is good no matter which it is and He is there to lead and provide for us even if it is something that is extremely difficult to face.
When we fail to remember God’s goodness, trust and faith falter easily.
“The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.”
Psalm 145:9 (NIV)