This past week as I was doing my women’s Bible study homework, I felt extremely convicted. And (at least when time allows!) I often like to write about things I’m thinking about or working through because 1) it helps me digest what I’m reading, 2) it gives me a “record” of sorts to come back to later, and 3) hopefully it helps others who read it.
We’ve been studying about Moses, and we came to Numbers 11 in our reading. Before even completing the homework, I thought “Ah, I know these verses! I’ve even written about the ‘Graves of Craving’ before.” But, why didn’t I think about the beginning few verses more in the past? They all but jumped off the page at me this time!
Numbers 11 begins, “Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord’s anger blazed against them, and He sent a fire to rage among them, and He destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means ‘the place of burning’), because fire from the Lord had burned among them there.” (Numbers 11:1-3, NLT).
The Israelites had been freed from slavery. They had seen all the many miracles the Lord performed against the Egyptians and their gods. They had experienced the Lord’s blessing in calling them His own people – they had even seen the glory rest upon the mountain. They were following the cloud by day and the fire by night. God Himself was at the center of their camp! And yet, as they began to travel, they started to complain about their hardship. And it made God ANGRY!!! In the last half of verse 20, God says to them, “For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have whined to Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?'”
I began thinking about how God said that the people’s complaining was really showing that they were rejecting the Lord and His plans for their lives. I’ve wrestled with this fact this entire week. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve complained a lot since moving to Michigan. It’s SO cold! I miss my gym. I miss my running friends. I miss knowing where to shop. I miss knowing where I’m going. I hate shoveling. In fact, I somehow managed to pull one of the vertebrae in my neck out of alignment when I was chipping away at ice on my driveway the one day. I thought I had just overworked the muscles until I went to the family doctor a few weeks later. I cried to my husband saying I was tired of being in pain, tired of living in an area where my family wasn’t close enough to help, tired of not having good workout solutions… I was even toying with the notion of walking away. He said he and the kids would follow if I left. (We have a joke that if one of us tries to leave, it’s okay because the other will just follow). I am embarrassed by my behavior, but I have literally all but thrown myself on the ground in a temper tantrum like my three-year-old. Days and days I’ve cried about how unfair life is here in this miserably cold and dreary state. The sun never shines! On and on I would whine, only adding to my husband’s stress level. He has been so calm and so patient, and yet I know he hates to see my unhappy. 😦
Then I read this passage this week and felt the weight of my sin. The Israelites were toward the beginning of their journey and they whined about not having the delicacies of Egypt. Had they forgotten their slavery? Had they forgotten that the Pharaoh had ordered their sons to be killed at birth? Why would they say the good ol’ days were better? Because that’s what we do when we don’t have faith for what’s to come!
Shawn and I didn’t move here on a whim. We prayed about it. We felt the nudge that it was the right thing to do. We prayed some more. We asked for wisdom. We asked others to pray with us. We heard over and over again that this was the right direction. I didn’t want to, necessarily, but I felt like we were supposed to. So, if God has a plan for us, why am I whining at six months into the journey? Haven’t I seen God’s miracles? Haven’t I been the receiver of His many blessings? Why am I so prone to do exactly what the Israelites did – jump right into sin by throwing a pity party about what we left behind rather than looking to the future?!
The Israelites were going to a land of milk and honey. God was going to bless them, keep them from sickness, multiply them and live among them. He only asked for faith and obedience in return. And yet they whined about their hardships and roused God’s anger to where He sent fire to the outskirts of their camp. When I think about God at the center, the people on the outskirts would be those who were the furthest from God. I certainly don’t want to be there! I don’t want to make God angry by my terrible attitude. Instead, I desire to have a heart of thanksgiving.
Instead of looking at what Michigan doesn’t have compared to Pennsylvania, I’m trying to see the little and big things that God has given us along the way AND to show gratitude for them. For example, my kids have been to the pediatrician only once since arriving (and that was for a check-up). They haven’t been sick at all this winter! Even the fact that we got into this pediatrician is a huge blessing since they typically only accept newborns from the hospital but made a one-time exception for us! My boys also love their school here and have made friends. I am enjoying my women’s Bible study. One friend even invited us to come play at her house one day afterwards, and it was wonderful! Another friend from our life group reached out to have dinner together and connect. I love meeting new friends, and it has been a HUGE blessing! Shawn likes his job and the people he works with. We have a house and are settling in. We both have reliable vehicles (love my mama minivan!). Our entire family truly enjoys our church here. Since we’re heading toward spring, the days are getting a little longer and we’re noticing it being light later. I’ve been able to teach online still. We have found a babysitter we really like. There’s more I could share, but these are just some of the positives that I was overlooking. Most of all, I wasn’t showing my husband how much I love him and how grateful I am that he and our boys are part of my life. It is amazing to have a loving family, and I was selfishly complaining about my personal hardships of missing MY gym and MY running buddies.
I had to repent this week and ask for forgiveness, both from God and my sweet man. I believe that God has a plan for us here, and so I’m going to let go of what was and try to make the best of what is. The forecast calls for snow tomorrow and a windchill of -20. But one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be like Paul when he wrote in Philippians 4:11-13 that he’s learned to be content in any situation, whether with much or little because he knows that he can do everything through Christ who strengthens him. YES! I’m resolving to be content, to look above the circumstances to the One who is calling us forward, and to be thankful in the process for all the many blessings we have been given.
Do you ever catch yourself complaining? If so, does it show a rejection of God’s plan for your life? Perhaps it’s time to ask God to help us turn whine into praise!
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace and compassion. Thank You for being slow to anger and abounding in love. We humbly ask for forgiveness for complaining about minor hardships in the grand scheme of life. Forgive our poor attitudes and our rejection of You and Your plans for us. We are truly sorry! Help us learn to be content in all circumstances. May we thank You and praise You for the many blessings we see and look for them instead of focusing on the hard parts of life. And, will You please use the hard parts to draw us closer to You rather than further away? May we seek You for direction and comfort and not the things of this world. Thank You, God, for being amazing and having a good plan for us and our future. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!
Since I love music and this song came to mind this week as I was studying, I thought I would include it here. If you listen to the words, it says “Don’t just say why were the old days better, just because you’re scared of the unknown…”