You have probably experienced stepping out on a beautiful, clear, and sunny morning, taking in a deep breath of fresh air, and thanking God for His magnificent creation.
But what did you do when, the next day, you glanced out the window to find the sky gray and rain pouring down? Did you immediately feel depressed? Perhaps you didn’t express it out loud, but sincerely, what did you feel ?
Do you only thank God for what pleases you, and mutter, even just a little, when things don’t go as you wish? After all, what harm is there in complaining a bit? It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t change anything, after all. Yes, it changes everything. It all depends on how we react to the little things in life.
Marriage counselors will tell you that the breakdown of a marriage is often due to trivial matters. It only takes a tiny nail to puncture a tire. The slightest technical error can cause the crash of a massive plane. A simple misunderstanding can lead to war. A word of irritation can trigger a shootout. Little things are so important! They determine our daily life: our bad mood at breakfast and impatience while waiting in line at the supermarket on Friday afternoon…
We complain so easily that often we don’t realize what we are doing. But complaining is the opposite of being thankful. Lamentations are the opposite of trust. Blaming your wife for burning the roast is the opposite of a loving attitude.
According to the dictionary, a complaint is an accusation. In fact, through our murmurs and complaints, we accuse God of not knowing how to manage the details of our day. An attitude of praise releases the power of God in our lives; an attitude of murmuring and complaining blocks it.
“Do not complain about your lot and do not murmur against God. Some did, and they fell under the blows of the angel of death, sent by God. All these misfortunes happened to serve as a warning for us and to illustrate how God acts; they have been recorded in writing for our instruction…” 1 Corinthians 10:10-11
Paul was talking about the conduct of the Israelites during their journey to the Promised Land. What exactly did they do? What were the terrible consequences of their attitude?
“The people raised a bad complaint in the ears of the Lord. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against them…” (Numbers 11:1).
Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, and God had given them extraordinary signs of His presence and care. He had parted the Red Sea, allowing them to cross on dry land. Then, He had brought the waters back over the Egyptian troops pursuing them. God had promised to lead His people to the Promised Land. He had promised to provide for them in the desert and drive their enemies before them, on the condition that they trust Him! As a sign of His presence, a cloud column accompanied them by day, and a column of fire by night.
But the Israelites did not trust God. They bitterly complained, first because of the lack of water and food; then because they no longer liked the taste of the water God provided, and they grew weary of the food He supplied. They grumbled, dramatizing the smallest things… And what was the consequence?
Patiently, God accommodated the whims of His demanding children. Again and again, He satisfied their needs until the evidence became clear: they were incorrigible! When they grew tired of the taste of manna and asked for meat, God told them He would give it to them, not just for a day or two, but for a whole month, “until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord…” (Numbers 11:20).
For forty years, the Israelites wandered in the desert, and at every difficulty, they bitterly complained and expressed a desire to return to the pots of meat in Egypt.
Why did it take them forty years to cover less than two hundred miles? Even with women, children, and livestock, they could have made the journey in a few weeks. But they were held back in the desert because of their murmuring and their refusal to believe that God would keep His promise and meet each of their needs.
When they reached the border of the Promised Land, they discovered that giants lived there in fortified cities. Instead of rejoicing at the obstacles and praising God, who had promised to drive their enemies before them, they rebelled against Moses and asked to be taken back to the pots of Egypt. They accused Moses of deceiving them.
Among the men who had seen the giants and fortified cities, only Joshua and Caleb kept faith in God’s promise to give the land to the Israelites. But no one listened to them.
This was the last straw! God swore to let the Israelites choke on their own complaints. Not one of those who complained would set foot in the Promised Land. Instead, the entire people of Israel would wander in the desert for forty years until a new generation, led by Joshua and Caleb, the two survivors of the desert journey, would enter.
“God was patient with them for forty years, even though they put Him to the test; He continued to perform miraculous signs for them. But, says God, I was very angry with them: instead of looking to me, their hearts were always turned toward something else. They did not want to know the ways in which I desired to lead them” (Hebrews 3:9-10).
Their petty complaints prevented them from entering the Promised Land. Similarly, our complaints and murmurs against God in small matters can prevent us from entering His perfect plan for our lives.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
The Israelites complained because of their unbelief; it is at the root of all our little complaints. Unbelief, in fact, prevented the Israelites from entering Canaan. God had much greater plans for them than merely bringing them to a specific place. The Promised Land by God was also to be a place of perfect rest, an attitude of perfect trust and inner peace.
“Indeed, God’s promise that we can all enter this place of rest still stands; but let us be careful that none of you miss out on it in the end… For only those who believe God can enter this rest. He said: I swore in my wrath that those who do not believe will never enter” (Hebrews 4:1, 3).
God has a place of perfect rest for us, right now. Not after death, but now. It is the attitude of total trust in Him that we can all adopt by faith. But for this, we must abandon our sin of unbelief, our murmurs, and complaints. Unbelief is a serious offense against God.
“The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me,” Jesus said (John 16:9).
Unbelief, like any other sin, is a deliberate act of rebellion against God. We choose to believe or not to believe. The dictionary defines unbelief as a refusal to believe, skepticism, rejection of what is asserted. If unbelief is a deliberate refusal to believe, then we are responsible for our attitude, and we must correct it. Like any other sin, the first thing to do is confess it.
For years, I was proud not to complain often meaning I did not openly express my discontent. I always maintained a smiling facade. But internally, I was a hardened complainer. As long as I did not consider myself guilty of this sin, nothing ever changed in this area.
I thought my complaints were legitimate. I grumbled when I hadn’t slept enough and had to get up in the morning feeling not fresh. I grumbled internally when I found the bathroom in disarray; I grumbled again when I had to rush through my breakfast. I grumbled when something went wrong at the office, and people did not do what I asked. I grumbled about bills to pay, about my car that refused to start, and about red lights on my way. I grumbled when I had to work late at my desk and couldn’t go to bed at the usual time… and the next morning, I started again.
Until one day, finally, the Holy Spirit showed me what the Bible says about thanking God in all circumstances. I then realized that for years, I had done exactly the opposite without seeing any harm in it. My first step toward a change in attitude was to acknowledge that I complained all day long.
I believe that if we want to get rid of our sins, we must deal with them firmly and radically: first, acknowledge them, confess them, ask God for forgiveness, and make the formal resolution not to yield to them anymore. Then, ask God to deliver us from them and increase our faith and strength to resist every temptation. Finally, thank Him and move forward, believing that He has acted. After deciding before God not to grumble anymore and promising, on the contrary, to thank Him for everything that usually caused discontent in us, we can expect to see Him act.
From unbelieving grumblers, we cannot transform ourselves into believers filled with gratitude and joy. Only God can bring about the change. As for us, we simply decide not to murmur anymore and to praise and thank God. Our part is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and to thank God for what He is doing in us.
In fact, we discover that God brings into our lives the very circumstances that, until now, triggered our complaints. But when we see them coming, we can thank and praise God because He uses precisely these small contrary incidents to bring about transformation. Previously, these things tripped us up; now, they let us experience the strength that God possesses; they serve to grow our faith.
Accepting with joy and gratitude every little incident that occurs will release the power of God in us and through us. And we will soon experience a real sense of joy as well. But let’s not seek this impression as an essential sign. Our praise and thanksgiving must be based on our faith in the Word of God—and not on our feelings.
This text is an excerpt from the book “Power of praise ” written by Merlin R. Carothers.”