When I’m tired, stressed, hungry (or Lord forbid, a combination of all three) the road to crazy is a short one for me. I find myself becoming less patient, complaining more, and increasingly frustrated. Instead of seeing my life clearly and through a grateful, hope-filled lens, all I can see are the problems I’m facing and my insufficiency to solve them.
Perhaps this is what happened to the Israelites when we find them in Numbers 11?
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord… Numbers 11:1a
Life in the wilderness was hard. It was hot. They were tired. They missed their comfy bed and favorite food. They were thirsty. And why did God choose this guy, Moses, to be their leader anyway?
Now keep in mind, this was only THREE days into their march towards the Promised Land. THREE DAYS, PEOPLE!
In the year since the Israelites had left Egypt, the Israelites had seen and experienced God’s dramatic deliverance (Exodus 14). They had received his miraculous provision of manna (Exodus 16). God had given them water from a rock (Exodus 17), and if that wasn’t sufficient to bolster their faith, they witnessed his presence on a daily basis leading them in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Numbers 10).
Wasn’t that enough to keep the pep in their step and hope in their heart? Wasn’t their freedom enough to fuel their faith to find joy in their journey?
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6
Did they forget what life was like for them in Egypt? It’s not like they were livin’ the easy life in their beach-front property, with a fully stocked fridge and a Starbucks on every corner!
Did they forget they were slaves in Egypt? Didn’t they remember how hard they worked laboring day and night? Did they fail to remember what their former leader, Pharaoh, was like?
It’s easy to allow our perspective to become clouded, isn’t it? Like a dull film that settles my contact, I, too, find myself navigating with compromised vision, forgetting the many good things God has given me.
Maybe you can identify. My days are probably a lot like yours—working, taking care of my kids, making meals, cleaning house, doing laundry, helping kids with homework, driving back and forth between school and sporting events.
When this cycle repeats and continues for too long, I can easily lose sight of the bigger picture. Slowly, my energetic, faith-infused, hope-filled heart wanes and my outlook on life begins to seem so . . . blah.
Usually, about that point, I’ll go on Facebook or Instagram and all of my feelings are confirmed – I’m reminded of how ordinary my life is compared to everyone else’s.
And subtlety, I find myself spiraling into a cycle of complaining. Poor me.
I hate to admit it and I get really good at justifying it, making excuses for it, minimizing it. But look at how God responds to the Israelites complaining.
…and when he [the Lord] heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. Numbers 11:1b
Yikes. That’s pretty serious stuff.
God heard their complaints and He wasn’t very happy about it. In fact, this verse tells us that God was so angry that He sent fire among them that consumed some of them.
Isn’t that a little extreme? Or as my kids would say, “extra”?
But it’s worth considering that if God’s anger was aroused when the Israelites complained, how would he respond to me? To my grumbling, my complaining, my lack of gratitude?
You see, when we respond to God’s work in our life with a complaining attitude, we’re actually intimating that what God has given us is insufficient. His provision is not good enough.
Like a toddler throwing a tantrum, we demand something more, something different, something we feel we deserve and our whining and stomping calls into question God’s provision.
And God hates it.
What if we learned to pause more? To express gratitude? To show gratefulness. To thank God for creating me and making me just as I am. With all of my flaws and inconsistencies.
I believe that’s the path to experiencing the deep contentment and peace of God in my soul. That’s the first step for us to take to embrace our true selfie.
When we learn to express gratitude for the little things, the little things don’t seem so ordinary anymore. They’re seen as gifts given to us by a good and gracious Father.
And then something even crazier begins to happen. Our heart begins to change. Our perspective begins to change. We walk lighter and freer because we’re not looking around at all of the things we wish we had or things want to change or the things we don’t like about ourselves.
Even in the hot, dry desert. Even when we’re tired. Even when our life doesn’t make sense and things are working out as we hoped or planned.
We’re content because our focus has shifted from inward at our lack, outward to the greatness and goodness of God.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
While everything around us screams to get our “outside life” together. God desires to do a much deeper work – one that works from the inside out. And it starts by thanking God for making you just the way you are.
Take a moment to consider…
- What is one thing you like about yourself?
- How have you seen complaining negatively affect your life and cloud your perspective and your ability to be grateful?
- How could focusing on God’s love and goodness speak life into your soul and recharge you?