I’m up to Exodus in my chronological Bible reading Last month, just in time for the Passover Seder, I read the account of God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. It’s a wonderful story. They cry out and God rescues them from 400 years of hard slave labor. But faster than one can say, ‘deliver us from Pharoah’, the Israelites start to grumble against Moses. “What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? It would have been better to die in Egypt.”
It was stunning for me to read how quickly they became discontent. God freed them, but that wasn’t enough for them. They mumbled and grumbled at Moses, even after he pointed out to them that they were really grumbling against God. When I finished reading the passage, I rolled my eyes at the Israelites’ inability to put things in perspective. I wished I could have given them a shake and told them to have a little backbone and a lot of gratitude.
Then I realized I’m no different from them.
Often what comes out of my mouth in the course of the day is not thanks or gratitude or praise. Instead, you’ll hear grumbling, murmuring, and sometimes downright complaining. In the last four months, a lot of this grumble time was taken up with the weather which I’ve found to be too cold, too wet, too cloudy, too dark, and too rainy to my liking.
When I lived in the states, I took turns grumbling about the quirky co-workers at my job, the songs we sang [or didn’t sing] at church, politicians, and the tulip-eating deer in my garden. Now living in a developing country, I’ve moved on to other topics. At the grocery store, I grumble about my broken shopping cart that refuses to go in a straight line; about the sudden disappearance of [choose one] evaporated milk, decaf coffee, or oatmeal; about how hard it is to open the plastic grocery bags at the checkout.
If I stop grumbling long enough to look around, I can see how fortunate I am. Unlike a majority of people here, I don’t have to complain that my roof leaks when it rains, or that my clothes are damp because I don’t have a drier. I don’t have to complain that I have to eat the same dish of porridge for supper because I can’t afford anything else. I don’t have to complain that I’m cold at night because my blanket is so thin. I don’t have to complain that I have to walk to work because it doesn’t pay me enough to buy a car. I don’t have to complain that my tooth hurts because I don’t have money for the dentist.
The easy solution is to focus on being thankful for all God has done for me and given to me. And for the past five years it’s been my daily habit to write down what I’m grateful for. Every day I have at least a half-dozen items and I think this practice has made a difference.
But I still find myself grumbling. Partly that’s because I have a casual attitude about it. It’s hard to see how a little complaining does any real harm. I treat it like a sport or a little dramatic performance.
However, grumbling is serious business. Psalm 95:8-10 says that the Israelites’ grumbling in the wilderness had two very bad consequences. First, it resulted in the hardening of their hearts. They stopped listening and went their own way. Second, their testing of God made Him angry. Given that God is slow to anger and rich in love, this must have been some major grumbling.
So what can I do to eradicate grumbling from my life besides faithfully writing my list of daily thanks?
It seems to me that the most grumble-free people I know have a different way of looking at life than I do:
- They don’t expect to be in control.
- They don’t expect other people to be perfect, or for things to always run smoothly.
- They are satisfied. Period.
So along with thanking God every morning, I need to remind myself:
- There is a God and it’s not me.
- Something will probably not go right today.
- Someone will probably act badly.
- And I can still be content. For God has given me an endless supply of grace.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16
What about you?
How full do you see your glass?
Do you ever find yourself grumbling about what’s missing in it?
And if you hear me grumbling, will you give me a nudge?