By Andrea Johnson
“Stop your whining or I’ll give you something to whine about!”
I’m sure you’ve heard those words before. My dad used them a lot when my siblings and I were young, usually when we were complaining about the latest injustice we were suffering; you know, such unfair issues like who had to sit in the middle of the backseat of the car.
Don’t you wish sometimes that you could repeat my dad’s words to certain adults? You know the type – no matter their situation in life they can find something to complain about. They can’t find a spouse. When they finally find a spouse (gasp!), that person is too unorganized (or too rigid), or they talk too much (or not enough). Their home is too cramped and small. But when they move to a larger home, they learn it’s too much to keep up with. They don’t have children. They finally have children, only to discover that children are a lot of work and parents are often left with NO time to themselves! Between family and work, life gets busy and they just want a break, but then they retire and feel as if no one values them anymore.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve been that person. I find myself complaining about the smallest of things, things that most people around the world would love to have. I clearly remember as a single parent hearing a group of women at work gripe incessantly about their husbands. After my experiences from a failed marriage, I would think, “I’d be happy just to have a husband who was faithful and didn’t do drugs.” But then when God gave me a wonderful husband, it didn’t take long for me to start finding fault. I had to repent!
God got so tired of hearing the Israelites whine that He threatened on several occasions to wipe them off the face of the earth. They complained about everything. They complained about the deplorable conditions they faced in Egypt. But after God delivered them, they complained about how He did it. They complained about Moses’ leadership style. They complained about the quality and quantity of their food. They didn’t exhibit joy very often; they were too focused on the negative. One passage really struck me:
Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember all the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that we wanted” (Numbers 11: 4-5, NLT).
Really? All the fish they ate “for free”? Did they not remember they were SLAVES?! Nothing was “free.” They paid with their lives.
We can easily dismiss complaining as not a big deal. It sure seems to be trending. Some see it as a sign of their “exquisite” taste. Nothing can measure up to their heightened standards. But complaining is sin. The Israelites paid a huge price for grumbling.
But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it (Numbers 14:21-23).
Have you considered that when you complain, you are treating God with contempt? And as with the Israelites, it’s quite possible our ungrateful attitudes have held us back. Maybe they’ve kept us from the fruitfulness with which God wants to bless us. Here is my challenge to you (and to myself):
- First, repent! Then try to go one day focusing on all the good things you have. Take time to verbally thank the Lord for them.
- Let the first words you speak in the morning be words of gratitude. Let your last thoughts at night be grateful thoughts.
- When you have a good idea, thank the Lord. When things go right, thank the Lord.
- When you are presented with a challenge, remind yourself that God is well able to lead you through it and thank Him in advance. When you focus on Him and His goodness, it’s a lot harder to complain.
One of the most profound thoughts comes from a simple children’s prayer: “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food.” He is great enough to meet all our needs, and He is good enough to meet all our needs, so let’s be sure to thank Him!
Caleb, along with Joshua, was one of the men sent to spy out the Promised Land and report back to Moses. He focused on the goodness in Canaan rather than complaining like the other ten spies. I love Caleb, about whom it is frequently said, “He wholly followed the Lord.” Not only was he blessed with health and a long, productive life, he also left an inheritance to his loved ones. About him the Lord said, “But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land” (verse 24).
A different attitude, that’s the kind of inheritance I would like to leave my children.
About the Author
Andrea Johnson, a credentialed Open Bible minister, is the managing editor of the Message of the Open Bible. A graduate of Open Bible College with a major in theology/missions, she has edited and co-edited several books, including Servants of the Spirit: Portraits of Pentecostal Pioneers, We Believe: Core Truths for Christian Living, and We Believe for Kids! Her goal is to reveal Christ to those who are searching for Him. In her spare time you will most likely find Andrea enjoying time with family and friends or hiking. She and her husband, Dennis, are blessed with four children, three of whom are married, and eight grandchildren.