Anyone with kids knows it true. Hungry tummies make for cranky little ones. Babies cry to let Ima (Hebrew for Mama) know its time to eat. When snacks are delayed, most toddlers are more prone to the belly sprawl tantrum... you know the one... the child goes splat on his stomach with flailing arms and legs. When we're hungry, we're generally not happy people, no matter the age.
Well, hungry tummies made for a tribe of cranky desert dwelling Israelis thousands of years ago.
As their tummies rumbled, their hearts grumbled against the Lord, and He was not pleased.
This story often baffles me. They just witnessed profound moves of the Lord... the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, they saw God manifest as a pillar of cloud and fire, and they were given heavenly bread every morning.
Yet they complained:
"Who will give us meat to eat? 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, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna." (Num 11:4-6)
They would rather go back to slavery, for the sake of their stomachs, than walk in the freedom of God. I have to think that maybe if I ate only bread everyday, I might fall into the sin of complaint, too. And through this food study, I'm learning just how serious this particular sin truly is.
God's displeasure with the murmuring was so great that:
His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (Num 11:1)
God takes this sin of complaint seriously. Consider how the Lord equates this sin with idolatry and sexual immorality:
Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Cor 10: 7-10)
As I have asked the Lord why He feels so seriously about complaining, I believe the understanding that He's given me is this: the sin of complaint is not only on par with idolatry, but it is actually evidence of idolatry operating in the heart! He is a jealous God!
Consider the origin of complaint. It always takes place when elevating the pressures of circumstances above the nature and promises of God. Allowing anything to become bigger than God removes Him from His place of Lordship in our lives. That's idolatry.
Complaining also makes me central within my circumstances. When I'm complaining about something, its usually because things aren't going the way I think they should. I am inconvenienced. Everything is about me and my desires. If I am in the center, then where is God?
This sin of complaint is sneaky and creepy.
Recently, a woman in our congregation asked me how I was managing with my on going health concerns. In the beginning I was filled with a supernatural joy, and I had a true attitude of thanksgiving. After round two of CT's came back clear, but lab work came back high, I found myself drifting into apathy.
Whatever, Lord. I don't even care anymore.
As I shared this, my friend quickly challenged me to evaluate what that meant about my heart condition. The Holy Spirit convicted me that my apathy was simply cynicism and bitterness. I was giving God the silent treatment, but He knows the heart. He was hearing my silence as complaint.
Complaint can also sneak in is through the guise of authenticity. This is probably the greatest way our cultural standards have desensitized us to this particular sin. Being negative isn't being real. Its just being negative.
The challenge is that most of us really do want to be honest about where we are in life. I certainly do. I have bad days. I contend with sin. I am a real person with real struggles. My faith in the Lord certainly doesn't mean I have to be happy and up all the time, and I certainly don't want to fake it when I'm not. Most of us want an honest testimony from others and from ourselves. Outsides should match insides; but the Lord is showing me that being cynical, and negative, in essence, complaining about my circumstances, is not a mature way to express disappointment, fears, or frustrations.
So how does true authenticity in the midst of a desert season look? Yeshua provides an example.
In an Olive garden, just before the time He knew He would carry the sins of the world on His perfect sinless shoulders, Yeshua went before His father in prayer. With agony so great that His sweat was as blood, He cried out to the Lord:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
He was authentic and He was real. He didn't pretend that He wanted to go to the cross. He didn't pretend that He was happy about atoning for us. His was totally honest, but His honesty was not in the form of a complaint, rather in a humble expression of pain.
I don't want to do this, Abba, but I want your will more than anything.
One key factor that makes Yeshua's dealing with His trial different from that of the Israelis in the Sinai is that He looked beyond His circumstances and He kept His Father central. His Father met Him in His humility, sending an angel to strengthen him for what was to come next (v. 43).
In the next few weeks I'll be undergoing an Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling (IPSS) exam. This is an invasive procedure that involves running a catheter from my leg into my pituitary gland in order to measure hormone levels. Nothing about it seems fun. Although its low risk, I'm a bit freaked out about how they do it, and a little afraid!
Personally, I'm facing the challenge: grumble or humble.
We are not promised to have an easy life in this age (John 16:33). I've certainly been in a desert season for the last few months, wandering around, looking for answers, and the temptation is to complain. The trap of the enemy is that the sin of complaint will cause separation from God at a time when He is most needed!
Not only that, but the sin of complaint is even damaging to my body! Every time I complain, I remember my frustrations, relive the stress, and my body responds by releasing more cortisol! Not good for a cushie!* The destroyer wants to destroy (1 Cor 10:10).
My tummy is rumbling, but I can see His heavenly bread manifesting in the morning dew. I want to fill my hunger with Him. The manna fast will come to an end, and according to His word, do you know what's next? A land flowing with milk and honey.
Let's feast together.
Besides prayer for an uncomplicated procedure, more than anything, I hope that I can walk this out with the same heart as Yeshua, who lives inside of me. Can you pray for me to have His strength?
I don't want to do this, Abba, but I want your will more than anything.
*Cushie is the term I'm finding on the blogosphere for people who have been diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome.
Biblical Eats: The Raven and the Hopeless Widow
The Beauty of Chagal Windows for Hospital Ashes
Excuse me... Where you Born Jewish?
His Time Out Chair was the Cross