Children of Israel, we have a problem. A recurring theme runs as old as the nation’s history. God’s people complain – regularly. But Israel did not start out this way.
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Exodus 2:23-25 (NLT)
Israel cried out for help. God’s chosen people were suffering in slavery and oppression. But God heard their groaning, he remembered His promise, He saw the people, and He knew it was time to act. Now, God is all-knowing, all the time, so He knew their suffering from the first act of oppression. So why would God wait until this moment to respond with rescue? Because God has complete knowledge and perfect wisdom – and we do not. We can trust God’s perfect timing, because we can trust God.
Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped. Numbers 11:1-2 (NLT)
Fast forward to Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. Even though they had experienced God’s rescue, as well as His miraculous provision, here they are, straight out whining. God was not behaving according to their expectations. So they stomped their feet and threw a tantrum. Young’s Literal Translation describes it as sighing habitually in the ears of Jehovah. Israel had rebelled against the Lord from the time they left Egypt (Deuteronomy 9:7). Don’t be deceived. It’s a short distance between discontent and defiance.
So what happened to turn Israel’s beautiful dependence on God so sour? In short, Israel lost their focus. Humanity gravitates toward greed rather than gratitude. Sadly, God’s people were willing to trade the favor of their Creator for the appetite of their cravings.
What can we learn from Israel’s experience? Complaining may begin with what seems like a valid concern. It may even appear harmless at first, until we realize the direct relationship between complaining and rebellion. Israel’s grumbling mouths were symptoms of their rebellious hearts.
How often do you sigh in the ears of Jehovah? Take inventory of your own thoughts. Note when your thoughts turn from gratefulness to complaining.
How do you begin to overcome a habit of complaining? Make a gratitude list. Use it to praise God when you notice your attitude slide into complaining. Put Romans 12:21 into practice and overcome evil with good!
Above all, saturate your mind with God’s Word, worship and prayer. Fill your life so full of God’s Word, that negative thoughts have no place to live.
Do you know Christ? No matter what advice we follow, the best of intentions will fail if we are not grounded in Christ. The first step to changing our habit of complaining is to ask God for the strength and wisdom to change. If you do not have a personal relationship with Christ, I would love to talk with you! I will do my best to answer your questions, or direct you to resources for help.