The Problem With Murmers
Do you ever have one of those days where you just feel like complaining? It’s not that anything in particular has gone wrong, it's just that you wake up focused on the glass being half empty rather than half full. Unfortunately, that’s me way too often.
The good news however, is that God is helping me see how to deal with my complaining mindset, and recently, He did that through Exodus chapter 17:23-26. If you’re not familiar with that passage, here’s what it says: When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”). Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink. It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to Him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, obeying His commands and keeping all His decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
In this passage we read how the Israelites, who were desperately thirsty, were provided for by God. But in His provision, they chose to focus on the fact that the water He gave them was bitter. Their response is especially interesting in that this is the same group of folks who God had rescued out of Egypt with all kinds of miracles. As a matter of fact, they had just witnessed God open up the Red Sea for them to cross. So obviously they were being cared for by a God who could do amazing things, and who would do those amazing things in order to take care of them. Yet when they got to Marah, they quickly returned to looking at their problems from their own perspective, completely forgetting the miracle working power of their God.
So they complained (“murmured”) against Moses. However, what they failed to realize was that they were actually complaining against God, because it was God who had been their provider. That was something Moses clearly understood, because upon hearing their complaints, the first thing he did was turn to God for help. In doing so, he gives the Israelites - and now us - an example of what to do when we have problems: go to God for help.
For some reason, we tend to struggle with this idea, and all-too-often we focus on our challenging situations with our human eyes, and not with eyes of faith. That leads us right into the trap of complaining. And if you’re like me, once I start, it can be really hard to stop. Actually, usually I keep going until the Lord stops me and reminds me that when I complain, what I'm doing is complaining against Him.
Here's what we can never forget: the same miracle-working God that led the Israelites out of Egypt, is still at work today, working miracles in our lives as well. Our challenge is to keep from letting grumbling and complaining blind us from seeing what God's doing because we're so focused on what He's NOT doing. Complaining is one of those sins that I think we often are willing to let go unchecked in our lives because we're too focused on other sins that seem more important to us - sins like lust, or lying, or other "sins of the flesh”. But the truth is, having a complaining spirit is equally offensive to God because it communicates our lack of trust in Him being able to be the God He says He is.
So today, let's take time to ask God to remove any hint of a complaining spirit that we might have in us. And instead, let's ask Him to give us a joy in His provision for us - no matter what that provision is.