It’s November, the month of thankfulness, and I am constantly finding myself in a hole of ungratefulness.
I forget my identity. I forget why I was made. I forget the Promise. And I forget His presence.
And I forget it all so quickly.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in what I don’t have, what I don’t feel, and to become absorbed in my flesh that hungers for security, value and worth.
And it’s the everyday, pity-filled phrases, the grumbling under my breath, and the negative thoughts I allow to take root that makes things so much worse.
Grumbling tends to do that.
Grumbling in itself is like looking at a small hole in the ground, taking a shovel to it and making it big enough to shove yourself into. Eventually, we bury ourselves so deep in bitterness and it is tougher than junk to get out of.
But isn’t it amazing how natural and seemingly innocent grumbling and complaining is? It’s totally acceptable and even a normal part of our conversations. Grumbling is one of those “dismissible sins” that we don’t think matter that much. (Hello, guilty as charged.) Yet in reality it has caused a w h i r l w i n d of trouble in the past.
In their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites actually excelled in the area of grumbling. Through their travels, they constantly asked God where He was and daily complained to their leaders about how they wished they were dead. No matter how many miracles they witnessed, they still doubted His hand in their lives. Even though God proved Himself faithful multiple times, the Israelites still grumbled to their leaders:
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:3
“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Exodus 17:3
Through their desert journey, God allowed harsh circumstances to happen to the Israelites so they would put their trust in Him alone. With each act of obedience or trust, fruits would grow in their hearts as they relied on God and watched Him come through. They praised Him (Exodus 15). They believed Him (Ex. 14:31). They made promises to Him (Ex 19:8). However, as trials arose, they consistently grumbled and complained, which caused those fruits to shrivel up.
Grumbling causes us to forget God’s faithfulness because our gaze becomes fixed on what we can’t see rather on what we’ve seen before. When we complain, we use our words to speak death over our circumstances. It weakens our hearts and allows discontentment to breed and multiply into every area of our lives. Complaining is such a big deal because it is detrimental to the good fruits God is trying to produce in our lives. Trust is nourishment for these fruits, grumbling is poison. After all, complaining wrecks contentment.
But gratefulness, on the other hand, causes us to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. By keeping track of how God has come through in previous trials, it helps us to cling to Him all the more.
But how in the world are we supposed to practice gratefulness in a society that operates out of discontentment? There are messages flying around everywhere we go saying:
This isn’t fast enough. This isn’t efficient enough. Work harder. Push faster. You don’t have this. You need this. Be this. Don’t be that. You’re not enough, be THIS to be enough. This isn’t satisfying.
Yet, Philippians 2:14-16 gives us life changing advice of how to live counter-culturally in a discontented society. It says,
“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.”
If grumbling causes us to blend in with the rest of the world, then the simple act of not complaining actually sets us apart– like bright lights in a dark sky. Not complaining and grumbling, even in small things, causes others to see that our hearts are rooted in contentment. And if the very act of not grumbling makes a significant difference in the way people see us, imagine the good it does to our own hearts? In our seasons of wandering, we can hold fast to the “word of life” and trust that even through the brokenness, confusion and chaos, He is for our good. He will work this all out and use every season. Because of this, we can speak goodness into existence rather than speaking death and discontentment over ourselves.
As we wander, may our hearts not become wrapped up in unbelief, forgetfulness, and selfishness that cause us to complain about our circumstances. Rather, may we remember the faithfulness of God in generations past and in our own lives, and in turn, live our lives in the assurance of the promise that we are running after.
After all, the antidote to grumbling is gratefulness.
If you missed last week’s post, click here!