I have to admit, the first days of the new year have been a bit rough. Viruses and the respiratory flu have come to stay in spite of the fact that they weren't invited.
I've noticed a familiar pattern when I feel less than my best; something I'm not proud of -- I complain. Because good health is the norm, it's easy to justify my complaints. But complaining is toxic.
Just like poison, complaining taints everything it touches. When I begin a conversation with a complaint, I set the tone for others to add more of the same. Negativity creates a downward spiral that leads to hopelessness.
Consider the children of Israel. They had been set free from the bondage of slavery. God had done the miraculous and released them from their cruel taskmasters, the Egyptians. Instead of continuing to trust God to provide for their physical needs, they chose to complain.
Listen to one of their pity parties:
"And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger," (Exodus 16:2-3; KJV).
Really? Was the food in Egypt that good? Had they forgotten the hard labor and beatings they had endured at the hand of the Egyptians? Probably not. But when circumstances were far from ideal, complaining was easier than exercising faith.
Unfortunately, this became a prevalent attitude. From their Exodus out of Egypt until they stood poised to possess the Promised Land, the Israelites demonstrated a recurring pattern of complaints that dotted the landscape over which they traveled.
Did this negative attitude have much of an impact on them? Definitely. It's no secret that they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years following a major bout of complaining.
After the twelve Israelites returned from spying out the Promised Land, their negative report enticed the rest of the people to voice their doubts: "And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness," (Numbers 14:2). They were so discouraged they were ready to elect a captain to lead them back to Egypt.
I often shake my head in disgust at the lack of faith displayed by this large group of people. Hadn't they seen God work on their behalf? Surely they would trust Him by now. Then I realize I act just like them. God has done some pretty amazing things in my life, yet I fall back into the rut of complaining when things don't go the way I expect them to.
But I have a choice. I can choose to trust God and praise Him in spite of how I feel and regardless of my circumstances. I can agree with God that complaining is sin, and pray the words of the Psalmist: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer," (Psalm 19:14).
Today, I choose to praise the Lord and use words that give hope.
Do you complain? What step will you take to eliminate complaints from your conversations today?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder that complaining is sin. Help me remember the example of the Israelites when I'm tempted to grumble. You've given me so many reasons to praise You. Help me trust You every day and to praise You even when things are difficult. Thank You for the hope You give me. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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