The Evil of Grumbling in the Midst of Blessings
Grumbling is such an ugly thing and yet we find ourselves falling into it so easily. We grumble about everything from the weather, to politics, to the economy, to our sports team’s losing record… season after season after season (o.k. I’m a Washington Redskins fan, don’t mock me, it’s been a rough decade or two). We grumble about our place in life, where we live, our slow progress in our careers or schooling. It can even get worse. There are times we grumble about other people, a brother or sister or parent, a friend at school, a leader at church, or a boss at work. Jesus tells us that our words are not the primary issue in all of this, because our words flow from our hearts (Luke 6:45). In truth, all our grumbling demonstrates one tragic thing: our hearts lack contentedness before God.
We talked about this at length on Sunday as we traveled through Exodus 15:22-27. The people of Israel had just seen the Lord’s 10 plagues completely devastate the false gods of Egypt. They had just witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. They were there as Yahweh’s might overwhelmed the best warriors of the most prominent super-power of the ancient world. And yet, three days later they forgot all of that. After traveling a short time in the wilderness with no sign of drinkable water they turned to grumble at Moses.
The main principle from this passage is: Grumbling comes from trying to face life while forgetting about God.
On Sunday I mentioned a book that has been really helpful to me over the years. Written by a puritan named Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646), the book is entitled, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”. Here are some gems from the pen of Burroughs. After talking about the fact that every believer has spiritual mercies beyond number, and many enjoy physical mercies of health, food and shelter, he says,
“For men and women to be discontented in the midst of mercies, in enjoyment of an abundance of mercies, aggravates the sin of discontent and murmuring. To be discontented in any afflicted condition is sinful and evil, but to be discontented when we are in the midst of God's mercies, when we are not able to count the mercies of God, still to be discontented because we have not got all we would have, this is a greater evil… “
He then answers his reader’s possible objections.
“Objection. You will say, Yes, but you do not know what our afflictions are; our afflictions are such as you do not conceive of, because you do not feel them.
Answer. Though I cannot know what your afflictions are, yet I know what your mercies are, and I know they are so great that I am sure there can be no afflictions in this world as great as the mercies you have. If it were only this mercy, that you have this day of grace and salvation continued to you: it is a greater mercy than any affliction. Set any affliction beside this mercy and see which would weigh heaviest; this is certainly greater than any affliction. That you have the day of grace and salvation, that you are not now in hell, this is a greater mercy. That you have the sound of the Gospel still in your ears…this is a greater mercy than your afflictions.”
He goes on to say so much more. I highly recommend the book to you. The truth is we must cultivate hearts of contentedness, especially in light of the mercies of God given us in the finished work of Jesus. Join me in thinking and praying through these things and in doing so may we grow to say with the Apostle Paul, “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). If Paul was not automatically content, if it was a process for him, if he had to learn to be content, then there is hope for you and me. Let's wholeheartedly engage in the process of learning to be content as Christ faithfully finishes the work He began in us (Phil. 1:6).