I don’t think any of us like to admit it, but we live in an ungrateful society. We tend to look around at the person beside us, wonder why they have something that we don’t have…and start wishing that things were different. If we are really honest with ourselves I think we would all see that we have a habit of comparison and complaint. Rather than being thankful for what we’ve got, we look around and see all that we are lacking.
Call it consumerism (thank you Apple for your constantly updated devices that leave people like me with the feeling that I am going to be missing something if I don’t have your newest “I” device), call it complaining, call it whatever you want but it all boils down to ONE thing…
We are a greedy, greedy bunch. We want what we want and we want it like we want it and we want it right this second. We don’t like to wait. We are impatient. Truth be told, impatience could be my tribe and me their queen. I don’t like waiting. I don’t like to wait in line at the store. I don’t like to wait on food. I hate having to wait on coffee at Starbucks. I just don’t like to wait. In my skewed little human mind, waiting means that I could be doing something else. All of the time that I stand in line, I could be doing something better. I could be reading a book (like I do in car line every single day…another sense of waiting that irks me), or answering email that tends to pile up, or playing with my kids, or just doing something better.
That is kind of how the Israelites felt when God delivered them from captivity and had them on their way to the land of milk & honey. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of honey. Had God told me that he was taking me to the land of milk and cereal I would have been game. I have a thing for cereal…truly one of my favorite foods. I digress.
See the Israelites had been praying to God for generations for freedom from the oppression that they were living in under the rule of Pharaoh. They were slaves…working all day in the hot Egyptian sun, building up Pharaohs kingdom and getting nothing for it. They were groaning and agonizing over their lives, so they called out to God. Exodus paints a pretty beautiful picture here…
…the people groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.
That phrase gives me chills.
God had been watching his people suffer and knew the cries of their heart. He knew what was on their mind. He knew what they needed. So imagine his dismay when he delivered them from the hands of the Pharaoh and from oppression and persecution and they continued to complain. When you get to Exodus 16, there are multiple verses that talk about God hearing their grumbling. As I was reading this, I caught myself thinking, “Well yeah…they were grumbling. They were wandering around a hot desert headed toward some place that even Moses had never seen. Of course they were complaining.”
And they were quick to point out that, at that moment, they wished that they had stayed put in Egypt. That maybe it wasn’t quite so bad there. Maybe they were exaggerating how bad it was because it was hard or uncomfortable. Maybe things were better under the constant slavery and oppression of the Pharaoh.
Perhaps maybe they just had ungrateful hearts and didn’t recognize the blessing that was coming because, at the moment, it was hard.
I realized as I was reading and studying that I do the exact same thing. When things don’t go just like I want them to, I assume that God isn’t listening. Doesn’t care, or that my prayers don’t mean anything. More than that, my heart was convicted of the amount of complaining that I tend to do over things that are really trivial in the grand scheme of things.
Over and over again in Exodus Chapter 16, Moses mentions that the Lord heard their grumbling. He heard their complaining. I think about my kids and how frustrating it is to do for them, sacrifice for them, give to them, and then it never feels good enough on those days when all they want to do is complain about something. Can you imagine how God feels when we complain or gripe or fuss or bicker about our lives when he has already given us so much by sending his own son down for execution?
That should put things in perspective a bit.
But the glory in this story, for me, was this: despite all of their complaining and all of their groaning and griping, GOD STILL PROVIDED.
Just because it didn’t look like they wanted it to look or thought that it should look, didn’t mean that it wasn’t still good.
Sure, he didn’t rain down filet mignon or some other ridiculously lavish meal. But he provided. He gave them bread…which was enough to sustain them even when they thought that it wouldn’t. Our God is a provider. He always, always, always gives us exactly what we need. Even if it may not be what we want (I’m sure this unknown bread like thing that rested on the land first thing in the morning wasn’t exactly what the Israelites were wanting) but is was enough.
May we be reminded today that our God is enough. That he provides us with enough.
And that our constant complaining is what creates in us an ungrateful heart.
There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.
What area of your life do you tend to find reason to complain?
In what ways can you seek gratitude today rather than complaint?