Numbers 11:1a “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”
Have you ever taken into account how often the words coming out of your mouth fall into the category of “complaining”? It’s really staggering…at least for me it is. This summer my wife, Missy, dove headfirst into a 30-day challenge to not complain! That’s none…zip, zilch, nada. And if she did, she would have to stop and openly acknowledge the truth that she had complained and then intentionally work to do better moving forward. I think for many of us, we feel that one month of gratitude around this time of year is more than enough positivity to justify what we say the other eleven months, but her involvement in this challenge really struck a chord with me. Because I complain a lot! No, I do…and I acknowledge that I do. I had to stop myself multiple times today from letting my negative thoughts form into words to be released into the conversations that I was a part of. Maybe it’s just easy to rationalize away the moment with excuses of being a realist. Probably a better word would be “pessimist”, but we do find plenty of ways to justify our lousy attitudes most of the time!
So, after I shared this scripture in Numbers with my church a few weeks ago, I myself embarked on a 30-day challenge which will last until December 5th. You see, this verse written by Moses framed a forty year span into a nineteen-word summation of failure on the part of the Israelite nation. Sure they were living out a forty year punishment in the wilderness for their failure to obey God’s plan to conquer the land of Canaan, but more than that, they failed to remember His provision. He was not limited in any way to meet every need that arose in their journey, and they had a hard time learning to trust in Him as their daily source for everything. And these are the same people who saw the waters part and a dry path form in the middle of the Dead Sea for them to pass through and then close behind them destroying the Egyptian army who were in pursuit. Man, it’s SO easy to have seen God meet our needs in the past, but find ourselves quickly complaining about how hard it is now! “Yeah, God could do a miracle then, BUT I’m hungry NOW…I’m thirsty now!” And yet God, through the disappointment, kept proving to them how resourceful and faithful He was to provide.
Based on this story, I would guess that my attitude and complaining have often been a frustrating sound to the Lord as well. But I’m learning…I’m really working on it. This past weekend I was officiating a wedding in Arkansas and had my patience put to the test waiting for hours on end at the DIA airport on Friday! We’re talking about multiple planes, technical failures, alert after alert on my phone telling me how the disembark time was pushing farther and farther into the day. But hey, I’m on a challenge, so I rose to the occasion in flying colors! While other passengers (and some crew members) around us were seriously losing it, I made an active choice to stay positive and not complain. And I made it! Made it through the delays and made it to the wedding rehearsal twenty minutes late with enough voucher money in hand to give my parents a free flight out to Colorado for the holidays! Who would have known that those delays would end with a tangible blessing that I would get to give away!
So remember this story and this verse this holiday season when you’re in a long line at the grocery store or stuck in that frustrating line of cars during rush hour. Challenge yourself in that moment to keep the very real frustration inside and to not complain in the way that you typically would. Who knows, you may do better than you think and end up with something positive on the other side of it!