The Cost of Grumbling

Death Sentence on the Rebels

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. 30 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. 35 I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’ ”

Numbers 14: 20-35

Through the whole story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, we read again and again how the Israelites complained and grumbled – and being punished by God because of that. The whole generation that has escaped from Egypt and for whom God had given the promise, had to spend 40 years wandering in the desert and ended up dead without ever setting their feet in the Promised Land.

It amazed me how stubborn and stupid the Isralites has been, but then I realized that that story is actually very close to home. The stubbornness of Isrealites and how they kept repeating the same mistakes – failing to see the faithfulness of God and instead only seeing the lacks of their current condition, failing to see the big goal, the big picture of redemption and only focusing on the harshness of the desert, failing to see the shaping and learning that was indeed needed by them in order to be a big nation God has planned them to be… These are all so frequently seen in my very home.

My children can whine and grumble every five minutes if I let them be. The food is not delicious, they don’t want to eat the egg. The pants are too long, the heater is too hot. I’m too tired to go pee. I just don’t want to put my shoes on, I don’t want to sleep, the curtain is not thick enough… On and on they drain every supply of patience I own. 

Not once or twice I got crazy and lost my temper, and it ended with me screaming, “Stop it!!! Can you just be still and do what I tell you to do? Can’t you see that I’m telling you to do something good, something good for you! Can’t you see what I have been doing since early in the morning until now? I even haven’t had any chance to sit down, you just sit there and play games and now you’re moaning when I tell you to eat??”

And one of the worst is to have them moaning (and later fighting) in the car, when we were going somewhere to play, to do something to make them happy! There was once a time the kids kept asking me when I would take them to travel with the train/tram. The prospect of dragging them walking to the tram halte/train station was so grim I kept refusing their request for many years.

When my husband ended up his service at his work in Den Haag, I thought this would be a good chance to bring the kids to his office by train and later go home together. Beside they were big enough and I was sure they would behave on the way.

I parked my car at my children’s school and later we all took the tram to Utrecht Centraal Station. The kids were elated, going to Den Haag by train! By the time we reached the train station my daughter started to ask, “Is it still far mama? How long do we have to walk, mama?” and by the time we finally got into the train and sat, the two started to bicker and fight, who would sit next to the window, who could sit on mama’s lap. And the 40 minutes ride to Den Haag was filled with at least 40 complaints (or even 80, double the numbers, because there were complainers). By the time we reach my husband’s office, there’s nothing I wanted more than handing them over to my husband and stop listening to their nagging anymore.

Unfortunately my life is filled not only by my children’s complaints but also from my own. I don’t always say my complaints outloud but it’s very clear that I’m not always welcoming every task in my life with a grateful heart. I despise the dirty kitchen, I hate the mountain of laundry, I’m not satisfied with my husband’s effort to help me at home, I can’t enjoy my children and get annoyed with their presence, I’m often feeling unhappy and frustrated ‘just because’!

My mom often said, “If you have a grateful heart, everything will settle to its place. Being grateful is the key to everything.” Yeaaaah… but how to be grateful when there are so many things going wrong?

You would think that after so many things escaping the death and worst situation I would be a woman full with a grateful heart. I thought so too. Every time I was faced with surgery and frightening treatment I always said, “God, if You make me pass this time, I would never complain again about anything in my life. I would be happy living with my husband and raising my kids. I would never be the angry mama again, because I will hang on to this precious chance You have given to me.”

And just a few days after, when life resumed its toughness, I couldn’t help to complain, to feel unhappy and being grumpy again. Just like the Israelites, I fail to see why God has let me go through the desert and eat manna everyday – He wanted to shape and prepare the Israelites, He wants to shape and prepare me, to a big promise He has prepared for my own good. And yet I focus only on the difficulties and problems I meet, and forget all the pleas and promises I made that I would cherish my children with all their tricks and mischieves. 

When I read this part of the Bible I was dumbfounded by how similar I behave with the Isrealietes, and on how much God hated their grumbling and whining He punished them with a death sentence. How frightening is the wrath of God!

I learn now that whining and grumbling are not as innocent as it’s seen, because they come from the heart – the ungrateful heart. Because everytime we grumble about something or towards someone, we are actually grumbling against God. By grumbling we’re questioning or even denying the goodness of God. We’re accusing Him of doing bad things in our life. By grumbling we’re stating that we are not trusting God with His goodness.

“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”

1 Corinthians 10: 9 – 10 (ESV)

God takes grumbling seriously, so I have to take this seriously too. Because He’s a God who wants us to delight in Him, and trust Him in every situation He let us go through, trusting His goodness, trusting His plans for us. May this be a reminder for me to stop complaining, but to set my eyes on His goodness and be grateful for everything.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 18 (ESV)

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