What does grumbling do to us?
It was the persistent sin of God’s people in the wilderness. They’d get hungry, thirsty. They’d have some dire need. They’d get impatient, short tempered, way beyond the emotional boiling point. And out it would come, the sound of grumble.
They did it at the beginning of their journey (Ex 17:3).
Here in Numbers 21, nearly forty years later, they were still doing it. They’d learned nothing. They said, this time, they were hungry – but not really. They loathed the food God gave them. They said they were thirsty – but again, not really. God always provided enough, they knew that (Dt 8:2-6).
Murmur. Grumble. Complain. Something’s wrong. They’re in need. They’ve been hurt. They’re in pain. The sound is always the same as self takes center stage: God’s in the wrong. God’s to blame. Why did He bring them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? Why, if He loved them, didn’t He care for their needs? But He didn’t, not to their satisfaction. So they argued, they quarreled, “Why…kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex 17:3).
We’re not so different, are we?
Did you know the word grumble, in Hebrew, also describes a place to lodge or spend the night? Isn’t that true of grumbling? Our complaint against God lodges itself deep in our soul. The longer it stays the night, the more distorted our view of God becomes.
Think about it: Grumbling never remembers the past. It never considers what God has done for us; His mighty acts; His saving power when we cried out to Him. We praised Him then for answered prayer; for His mercy and faithful love for us. Where is the memory of that now?
The hurts and needs of the present are too strong.
It got worse. They turned on Him. They blamed Him for how He utterly failed to care for them. They threatened – do we do this? – to abandon Him, saying, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Num 14:4)?
Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, knows what grumbling does to the soul. He urged us to make a better choice. When the sound of grumble begins, know that “Your heavenly Father knows” your needs. He who cares for the birds of the field, cares for you. Seek Him. Seek His kingdom (Matt 6:32-33). It’s a hard choice when we’re overwhelmed.
But it’s the right choice. Why let grumbling spend the night? Why let it distort our view of God? It’s easy – have we not perfected this? – to get impatient, short-tempered, and let the grumbling churn down deep in our souls until it explodes out of us against our Lord. But why do it? What good comes out of it? Why not turn to Him and ask Him to help?
And trust, deep down, that our Heavenly Father’s love for us has not changed.