Your alarm goes off and somehow you don’t hear it and suddenly you are late to start the day. It sets your mood at a tone of dissatisfaction and it’s easy to complain about everything from then on. The coffee isn’t ready, the lights on the way to work are all red, the report you needed to turn in is at home on the counter in the kitchen beside the half-eaten bowl of cereal, and so it goes.
But it doesn’t stop there. On your way home from work, you stop by the grocery store to pick up a few items you know you need to make dinner and you zip down the aisle only to find the shelf where the item has always been is empty and you need to think of a new menu and hope it’s on sale. Grocery prices are going through the roof, but the rest of whatever you earned working today will be used up if you stop for gasoline.
It’s so easy to grumble, gripe, and complain, but currently it can be a temptation that is easier than ever. Even little things we took for granted are missing or so expensive we can’t enjoy them.
The problem isn’t new to humankind. Grumbling, griping, and complaining have been around since the beginning of time. It happens when we want something we can’t get or have. It happened when Adam and Eve were told not to eat of a specific tree but could have every other tree in the garden. Have you ever thought about how endless the variety of trees would likely have been back in Eden and yet one forbidden tree and the serpent’s words brought everything tumbling down?
This habit of ours visits every area of our life it seems. We are sure our boss, co-worker, spouse, child, or friend are not listening to what we have to say. How do we respond? We might be snarky or start shouting louder to make the point we want to be heard. It’s hard to imagine or remember that we don’t always listen well either, isn’t it? It’s hard to recall that we have disappointed a few people in our life because we let them down when they were counting on us.
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.
The first chapter of Deuteronomy tells the story of the beginning of their trip out of Egypt. You see that within two weeks of the Promised Land, the children of Israel started complaining and Moses was none too happy.
Spies were sent out to see if the land they had been promised was worth anything. The spies came back with a report that the land was lovely and full of good fruit. They even carried some back to show them, but the report also included the fact there were giants in the land and big fortifications they would need to conquer. How could they ever handle those obstacles?
Despite the confidence of Joshua and Caleb in the group of spies, the complainers, doubters, and grumblers were the loudest.
“It was a neurotic’s attitude. No answer would do. No solution offered was good enough. The promises of God, the direction of Moses, the report of the spies – all unacceptable. The people had already made up their minds that they didn’t like anything God was doing.”Elisabeth Elliott
Sound like anything that has happened in recent days?
The unbelief by the children of Israel that was the root of their grumbling and complaining caused consequences they could never have guessed. They were denied the privilege of going into the Promised Land and had to spend 40 long years in the wilderness until the doubters died off and a new generation under Joshua went in and took the land.
Every person, every generation gets tested with challenges they don’t want and didn’t expect.
Years after the wilderness journey, the Israelites were yearning for a Messiah to come and protect them from the cruelty of the Roman Empire. A baby born in a barn was not their idea of a way to do that and then dying on a cross, how could that accomplish anything?
Humankind has faced all manner of pandemics, epidemics, wars, economic collapse, untold destruction by every type of storm we can think of and yet, there were some who felt all those disappointments and disasters as they happened and didn’t lose their hope or belief that somehow something good would come. They didn’t allow the enemy of our souls, hearts, and minds to overtake them.
How will our generation respond? Evil seems to be flourishing and the pandemic nearly did us in. (We still are impacted by it in multiple ways.) We are frustrated that life isn’t going as we hoped, and it can be easy for all of us to look for someone or something to blame. The list of culprits is long. We hear it reviewed on every kind of news media, but we rarely hear them say what the source of the evil is or that sin slips in on every side and does the deeds we blame on other things and people.
God didn’t promise things would be easy and there would be no suffering. That was a result of complaining about not being able to eat of only one tree in Eden and then doing it against God’s direction. He told us what we would face when that choice unleashed evil in the world. But God also promised to be with us during all that would happen. When we aren’t rescued immediately, can we hold to that belief in Him? Can we recognize when we look in the mirror that humankind has responsibility for what is going on?
If so, then that is the path to breaking the habit of complaining, doubting, grumbling, and despairing. It reminds us to believe what God has told us and endure to the end with the confidence He will be with us if we just stand fast. He never expected us to do this on our own. Maybe we should stop trying that way.