Sometimes the new life God is leading you toward doesn’t seem as great as the one He has redeemed you from. When that happens, complaining often creeps in.
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Remember the complaining of those redeemed from slavery in Egypt?
We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic. —Numbers 11:5
We all struggle with complaining. But in those moments, we betray our selective memories.
There’s a better way.
Complaining is Only Half Right
When we grumble about our Christian lives, we only think of half of the truth.
Like the Hebrews, we remember the pleasures of our old lives—the tasty leeks, onions, fish, etc.—but we forget the bondage itself. Our minds focus on everything sensory, and nothing spiritual. It’s never the lack of spiritual connection with God we miss. It is always the pleasure of sin’s immediate satisfaction.
Never mind that we cried out to God to deliver us from bondage. All things being equal, we prefer leeks to manna. What we had seems better than what we have.
When that happens, a number of emotional triggers kick start our complaining:
- Anger at what we’ve lost
- Injustice that isn’t satisfied
- Pleasure becomes the goal and priority
- The temptation to compromise increases
But gratitude? Uh, no. Our hearts swing the other way.
- We just want a better supper, like Esau, who for a single meal would abandon the blessings of a birthright (Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16).
- Like David, who for a one-night stand with a voluptuous woman would endure the lifelong, agonizing sword that never departed from his family (2 Samuel 12:9-10).
- Like Gehazi, we think we should get more for our hard work—so we connive to get money (or anything) that isn’t ours to take (2 Kings 5:20).
We remember the pleasures of a life apart from God, but we forget the painful bondage from which we cried to God for deliverance.
We crave the best of two incompatible worlds.
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3 Things to Remember
In those moments when the old life seems better than the new, when complaining replaces gratitude, we need to see the full picture.
We can conquer a complaining attitude by remembering three things:
- Remember the lie. Satan is the best marketer in the sin business. He can stretch a thin skin of beauty over a heap of dung and convince us to climb it. The devil uses the pleasures of sin as but a down payment. He knows he gets back double for his investment. He loses nothing; we lose it all.
- Remember the truth. Even when our complaining isn’t for sin—when we grumble only for the good things God withholds—the same point applies. Grumbling and complaining about God’s provision amounts to rebellion against God. Consider, after all, we’re headed to heaven! In the mean time, God is shaping us to be like Him.
- Remember the value of God’s will. Complaining comes from a failure to see the true value in God’s will. Hasn’t the Lord promised to care for our needs? And if, for some reason, He chooses to wait to do so, might He have a reason?
To insist on instant gratification minimizes and overlooks that which is of infinite worth. It tosses aside the wisdom of God’s sovereignty.
But genuine gratitude can begin to overshadow our complaining. Focusing on the awesome and incredible blessings of God can turn us around and keep us positive.
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This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing.
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