Ok, confession here. Sometimes I complain about God’s work in my life.
You’re shocked, right?
Or not. Because I’m just like you, and hey, we all get perturbed with how life is going some days. We didn’t get the job, marry the guy, move to the dream house. Or worse – we don’t know where the next meal is coming from or how much longer we’ll have a roof over our heads.
We think God must be forgetting something or just plain messing up.
I recently heard a sermon in this regards that smacked me straight in the face. I dug into some deep pondering and emerged with conviction over my self-absorbed mentality and wonder at the goodness of a self-sacrificing God.
I hope these thoughts will challenge you as much as they did me.
“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” – Numbers 21:4-5, ESV
Background: God delivered Israel from Egypt’s rule and slavery and promised them a beautiful, fruitful land – theirs for the taking. He struck Egypt with horrific plagues until Pharaoh released Israel, demonstrating God’s awesome power and passionate love for His people. He made the Red Sea rise to towering heights, creating a miraculous path Israel crossed through – not over – through. God led them every step of the way and met every need.
Israel was stubborn. Hard-hearted. And they ended up wandering aimlessly through desert land forty long years.
Here they find themselves in the midst of wandering, and they’re impatient. Frustrated with waiting for the promised land. Comical, since their hard hearts were keeping them from it in the first place!
Overwhelmed, they cry, “God, why did You even take us out of slavery?!”
This honestly baffles me. How is Israel so wrapped up in their frustrations they’d rather be back under the whip of slavery, in bondage, fear, and persecution?
They forget the plagues, the Red Sea standing to attention, the awesome manifestations of God’s power and love. They decide the familiar would be more comfortable, even though it was slavery. They don’t want the uncertainty of following God anymore.
I don’t know about you, but I do this. When I feel doubt and instability, I forget the suffering behind me. I only remember the comfort of waking up every day to the familiar. I lose sight of what’s ahead, God’s promises. I look through earthly understanding instead of faith, which is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Israel makes a statement here that resonates with me: “We hate this stinking food.”
The manna, the bread from heaven that once amazed them is now “this stinking food.” They are sick of God’s provision, because it’s not what they want. They complain about how God has chosen to provide and work in their lives.
Guys, I TOTALLY see myself here. How often do I feel life is not going according to plan and say, “God, I hate what You’re doing here,” or “God, I want more than this.”
Can you relate?
Envy, discontent, complaining. “God, I hate this stinking…job, house, marriage…” You fill in the blanks.
Where does this attitude originate?
1. I lose sight of God’s promise and the vision He has given.
I focus instead on the present difficulties. Paul says our struggles are momentary and light afflictions. Honestly, when I look back on my family’s last couple years, the afflictions don’t feel light. But when I stop and compare them to eternity, they last only the blink of an eye.
2. I become envious.
I see what God does in other people’s lives or how He blesses them, and I wish my life was like theirs. But, I’m forgetting in those moments that each person has their own seasons of affliction. What I see on the surface isn’t the whole truth. We don’t know what others are going through behind closed doors and in hidden places of the heart.
I’m not hoping for others to struggle. I just recognize that we envy only the good we see, not the struggles we don’t see.
3. I forget that trials bring about spiritual growth.
Moment of transparency here. Sometimes I don’t really care to grow spiritually. I think, “God, let me stay a spiritual infant, carefree and enjoying the simple pleasures of faith without the trials.” I’d rather be like a baby, who nurses contentedly and knows nothing of the stresses and challenges of grown-up life.
But, an infant who managed to stay a baby would also miss the great joys of grown-up life. Things like finding passion for a career, getting married, having children and grandchildren…
It is the same with spirituality. If I choose to remain an infant, I’ll miss out on the glorious experience of knowing Jesus more intimately. The people I admire most in life have often been through the keenest trials. Trials form our story, contribute to who we are and shape our relationship with Christ.
4. I forget that Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Israel “hated this stinking bread.”
Jesus is the Bread of Life. When I complain about God’s work in my life, I’m usually looking at circumstances and hardships, rather than remembering God Himself was broken on a cross to save my sinful self. I truly was worthless, but the One who is worthy of all praise and honor and glory gave His broken body to redeem me. I’ve done nothing to deserve it, but He loved me.
This life is painful. Frustrating. Agonizing at times. I would not minimize what you’re going through or tell you to just suck it up and deal.
I’m simply reminding myself, as much as you, that in the agonizing times, we have a choice. We can focus on the “stinking bread” of our lives, the things we don’t like and wish we could change.
Or we can fix our gaze on the Bread of all Life – Jesus, whose broken body is the ultimate reminder of God’s promises. He stands as the eternal guidepost, ever pointing us in the direction of God’s plan of salvation.