6-7 Moses and Aaron told the People of Israel, "This evening you will know that it is God who brought you out of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the Glory of God. Yes, he's listened to your complaints against him. You haven't been complaining against us, you know, but against God."
(Exodus 16:6-7 The Message)
We were "unpacking" Exodus 16-17 at our small group last night, and in the course of the reading, God began to "unpack" a few life lessons for me that began to speak to my heart. If you have not guessed by now, the life lessons I get are those that speak to where I am "at" in my life at the moment. So, you are going to get a little insight into my life right now! As you can well imagine, Moses and Aaron had a difficult job trying to lead a huge group of people out of Egypt and then "herd" them into the Promised Land. This group of unruly folks are found complaining because they have run out of provisions - their food supplies have dwindled and they are hungry. So, they do what comes "natural" to them...they COMPLAIN!
In keeping with my mind's incessant need to know what the meaning of words is, I came home and looked up the word "complain". Here's what I found:
- To express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, resentment, or grief
- To find fault
- To make a formal accusation
- To protest against or lament a wrong
Guess what some of the synonyms are: Grumble, Growl, Whine. Ummmm....know what the antonym of "complain" is? Rejoice!
Here they are...miraculously brought out of bondage to some of the most severe task-masters of the region, freed from having to be in servitude to anyone. Then, without warning, they begin to grumble and complain. Let me say, I have been right there with them! I see God bring me miraculously through some form of crisis, then almost without warning, I find something to take issue with and begin to express dissatisfaction, express my protest against the situation, or point out the "fault" I find in it! Sheesh...what's up with that?
In order to really understand why it is that we engage in this type of behavior, we must really dig deeper than the surface of what "appears" to be the aggravating factor in the moment. For example, if we are dissatisfied with a co-worker, we must look deep enough to find the "root" of the issue. The truth may not lay in the discovery of what your co-worker has done wrong, but in the "motives" that are underneath your dissatisfaction - such as feeling wronged by them, envying them, or even being disappointed in how the relationship is going. There are all kinds of reasons we "complain" against them - but the immediate response to complain is usually not totally apparent until we examine the "root" of what is making us complain.
That said, I think God is asking us if there is a positive "end" to our complaint - regardless of the complaint, this is a good question to ask ourselves periodically. If we take the last complaint "root" for example (there is some disappointment in how the relationship is going), what could be the positive outcome of the complaint we are making? Too many times, we only focus on the negative that comes with complaining, but I think God allowed these examples of "complaining" to be recorded in scripture to instruct us to look beyond the moment to see what he could do in our lives if we would just bring him our complaints.
So, that brings me to the point that complaining need not always be a bad thing. I think God wants us to be honest about our emotions - straight-forward in our review of what is "bugging" us at the moment. Even if it involves us complaining against something we believe he is doing in our lives! That is how we come to understanding of the "root" of our complaints! If we begin to look at our complaints from what could positively come out of them, maybe we could begin to turn our complaints into rejoicing in the end!
In the example above, when I have laid out before God the disappointment I experience in a relationship, then God is able to point out my part in the disappointment and give insight into how I might correct "my part" of the relationship tensions. He may even give insight into the "why" behind the way the other person is acting - but we should not always expect this! The thing I have learned is that when I ask God to point out my "roots" first, the "roots" of another's faults really pale in comparison!
So, just some lessons I have learned in life about my "complaints". We'd do well to learn to turn our complaints to God for him to sort through and then bring us to the other side where we might see them turned into rejoicing!