There is nothing like getting together with friends or family and just talking. It is an opportunity to tell each other what is going on in our lives. However, for some of us it is also a time to vocalise our feelings about what has been frustrating us, or what has not gone our way.
We use conversation to “get a lot off my chest!”
This is the perfect opportunity to just let everyone know what you have been going through, what you have had to endure and how fed up you are. “They just don’t know how bad it has been!” We all know that we have recognised a person like this, but perhaps you recognise yourself?
In fact, for many of us, life is tough.
We, like the Israelites who are living in the desert, are experiencing aspects of this life that are really hard to live with. In the desert, life is tough for us, it’s hot, and we are tired. There is no fresh fruit and vegetables, no ice-cold water, no lovely oasis, nothing to make our lives pleasant or bearable. Like the Israelites, we anxiously look forward to an end of our time in the desert, an end to this aspect of our life that is so hard to endure.
Don’t believe me? Consider all the people you regularly see, is there something or even someone you regularly complain or grumble about? Cast your mind back to the last conversation you had with your closest confidant, what was the conversation about? Perhaps you grumbled about your marital partner, your children, work, your boss, church, friends, house, lack of money, lack of time etc.
What is in our hearts, almost always bubbles out of our mouths, eventually! It is appropriate to share our struggles with each other, but…
We are all, at times, characterized by complaining.
Turn with me to Numbers 21:4 – 9
The Israelites had just won a major victory against the Canaanites, God has just ensured a victory for them, (Num. 21:3). (How many of us have had victories in our lives, with God’s help, just recently?)
Now the Israelites are back in camp, they are self-confident and victorious and are murmuring and complaining about the lack of water and bread in the desert (their current situation and circumstances.) This is despite the fact that there is a constant supply of manna and the fact that in Numbers 20, God had just provided water from a rock. (All of their basic needs have been met.) in fact, their word on the manna which has been provided was: “we detest this miserable food”. The Israelites actually despised God’s provision for them.
By rejecting God’s food (i.e. manna), the Israelites are rejecting God’s provision (Manna parallels with Jesus in scripture, see John 6:32-35; 48-51; 58). Their complaints may have been viable, and understandable, but they were still rejecting what God had provided. It is easy to complain and one may even deserve the right, but it is not right.
God’s response was to send poisonous snakes amongst them, and many died. God judged their complaining attitudes (the condition of their hearts).
This may seem harsh, but complaining is a heart attitude that is focused on what we do not have, rather on what has generously been given to us. A complaining heart, does not focus on the blessing it has received already, but instead focuses on the desires of the fickle heart that have not been met. Complaining when given full reign in our lives gives birth to self-pity.
It is easy to complain, but it is wrong. 1 Cor 10:9 Paul reminds the Corinthians of the Israelites by warning them not to “put the Lord to test, as some of them did and then died of snakebites”. Phil 2:14 encourages us to “stay away from complaining and arguing.”
So what is the right heart attitude to develop?
A grateful heart that counts your blessings and recognises God’s provision in your life.
Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one, and you’ll be surprised at what the Lord has done.
Help me Lord to first say thank you for what I do have, before I start complaining about what I don’t have. Help me to be grateful for the people in my life and count them as precious, before I spend all my time complaining about their behavior. Help me to appreciate Your provision and care in my current circumstances, rather than focusing on that which is not contributing to my comfort and ease.