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Grumbling Meets Grace

The other day I ran across a YouTube video of comedian Louis CK on Conan O’Brien. He was talking about how we live in this amazing world and yet nobody’s happy.

“Ah, this is unbelievable; my phone sooo slow.”

“You’re kidding me! My flight is delayed 20 minutes.”


We forget our cell phones are communicating with satellites in outer space, when we fly we’re soaring through the sky like a bird, and that our cars are zooming along paved roads. All of these things are miracles only dreamed about by previous generations. We are incredibly privileged to live in a world with smart phones, airplanes, cars, TiVo’s, computers, etc., but often we forget how amazing these things are.

The problem here is simple—there is a root of bitterness, of grumbling and complaining in many of our hearts. Of course, this is nothing new. In the Old Testament, after Israel had been rescued from slavery in Egypt and the people were on their way to the Promised Land they grumbled. Numbers 14:1-4 says,

Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Even though God preformed great signs and miracles, provided food to eat and water to drink, and chose them to be his chosen people, they whined like little children. “We want better food,” “We want a new leader,” “We want, we want, we want…”

Do you find more temptation to grumble when life is seemingly “unfair?” When your boss is not appreciating you? When you spouse or friend is being unreasonable? When you feel you are entitled to more money, more status, more respect? When you feel that God is not watching out for you like he should? Why do think you feel this way?

The truth is, grumbling is a behavioral problem that comes from a deeper root. For the Israelites, and perhaps some of us, there was a problem of unbelief. Many people do not believe that God is big enough to satisfy all of their longings and desires. But he is. For others there is a sense of entitlement or self-centeredness. Maybe we think to ourselves that we deserve a piece of the American Dream, a certain kind of car, house, or family. The world or God owes as much. Or sometimes we even slide into a desire for worldly peace and security that leaves us frustrated when we don’t get our way. If we are honest, these root problems affect us all.

The good news is that Jesus died for our grumbling and provides us with a model to follow. Jesus, the perfect Israelite, never grumbled against God. He never complained or cursed others out of frustration. When he was in the wilderness he was dependent on God and was thankful for what he had.

How can we practically follow Jesus’ example of not grumbling? Of trusting in God and what he has said in times of trial? What is the benefit of doing so? How can we remind ourselves of treasures we have in Christ?

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