I, like most people, enjoy a good grumble. It's something of a British pastime to moan about things. You get the feeling that the French shout about them, the Italians fight, the Germans sort them out logically, the Americans ignore them and we moan. This may be somewhat of a cultural stereotype!
Grumbling has a long history, as demonstrated by my Bible reading today. I came across this in Numbers 11...
"4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’"
The Israelites have been miraculously rescued out of slavery in Egypt by the Lord, who is now leading them to the Promised Land. But the menu is getting them down. It struck me that they whinge for exactly the same reasons I do.
Firstly, they have a distorted view of the past. If you listen to them you'd think that they were living in a five star hotel, with an a la carte menu and a spa. They were actually in slavery! They were whipped and beaten if they didn't make bricks for the Egyptians quickly enough. I don't expect that there was a cucumber in sight. The problem is that they have classic "good old days" syndrome. It was so much better when we were kids. But it wasn't.
Sometimes Christians can feel that it was better before they started to follow Jesus. Life was simpler. It wasn't. There were less demands. There weren't. They had more fun. They didn't.
Secondly, they have a demanding attitude in the present. They seem to have forgotten that the Lord has just rescued them. It has slipped their minds that he has miraculously provided food and water for them. They have overlooked the way that he has defeated their enemies and is protecting them day in day out. In fact all they can think about is that the menu is a little bland. They have lost sight of the multiple ways that they have been blessed by God and got fixated on the one thing that they've decided will bring them happiness.
The old song urged us to "Count your blessings one by one". But we are far quicker to demand our desires. We need to be better at giving thanks for the innumerable ways that God is good to us today. As Paul says: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)
Lastly, they have a diminished view of their future. They're on their way to the Promised Land. Yes the journey might be tough. Yes the temporary rations might not be all they want. But their destination is a land flowing with milk and honey. A land that they don't have to work for, but is a gift of God to them. A place of plenty. A paradise.
The Bible never promises Christians exemption from the normal struggles and pain of life in this world. In fact it says that because we are Christians we can expect a rougher ride. We follow a man who was crucified. We shouldn't expect people to be any keener on us. Yet however difficult the journey, it is nothing when compared to the beauty of the destination. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
So I'm going to try to grumble less and be thankful more. I don't really like cucumber that much anyway!