Not too long ago, Suzie Eller a well-known writer and blogger from Proverbs 31 Ministry asked her readers to join her in a fast from complaining. God prodded me to participate. I reacted with, “Hmm, I don’t complain about very much.” Before I took another breath I realized my pride in how I don’t complain about, well, everything.
But I am consistent in two areas: where we live (it is so HOT) and the increasing high stress in my husband’s profession. During my fast God revealed how my steady stream of grumbling, even though selective, creates deep ruts of discontent. The more I complain, even to myself, the deeper the discontent burrows in my heart. It robs me of listening well to others. Rather than supporting my husband, I added advice that increased his stress.
I’ve scoured the story of the exodus the last couple of months When I began the fast, thoughts about the Israelites in the desert meandered through my mind. I wondered why they complained about the manna. They didn’t have to spear it, gut it, or pluck it. They didn’t have to wait in a long line or weave through crowded aisles at Market Madness. When it was prepared it tasted like honey-sweetened wafers. (Exodus 16:31, NIV). This sounds like a Win-Win.
A question pricked my heart. What’s your manna? What daily provisions do you grumble about rather than respond with gratitude? Ouch.
I looked at what went wrong as the Israelites wandered in the Sinai wilderness. The Lord had just freed them from harsh enslavement in Egypt. He parted the water. They traveled on the Red Sea Road with a pillar of clouds by day and fire by night.
But the songs and praises about God’s good deeds evaporated in the parched land. They didn’t see provision nor did they turn to their Provider. They craved the rich foods they had in Egypt.
Comparison slithers in and we, like the Israelites, slide down a slippery slope of dissatisfaction. Rather than confess to God or appeal to Moses, they mumble about the manna. It sparks a wildfire of unholy discontent.
Our enemy loves it when we forget God’s provision. It affords him a foothold to nourish our fear and insecurity.
We focus on the circumstances rather than recall the character of God.
Frustration turns to resentment.
Worry gnaws away our peace and joy.
We forge a way on our own, leaning on our own understanding.
As I sit with the story and see my own heart it feels like a scratchy wool blanket. Clarity on the page or in someone else’s behavior is much easier than looking at my own heart. We don’t intend for this to happen. It occurs slowly, though, when we stop being alert to the schemes of our enemy.
I’ve thought about how we don’t allow a burglar in our house but if we knew ahead of time someone was planning to enter our home with the intent of stealing and destroying our home we would not open the door. So why do we do this with our thoughts and heart?
The fast from complaining allowed me to see the areas I allowed a visitor pass to the enemy when he planned on a residential staycation.
When I fasted from the knee jerk complaining that I felt a bit stuck. The neurotransmitters in my brain needed a new route, like changing the tracks for a train so it would veer in a different direction.
A verse rustled in my memory. In everything give thanks.
I wonder how often we believe it states For everything give thanks. It makes a difference, doesn’t it? It gives us the freedom to search for the good even in hard times. We are not expected to be thankful for a friend’s tragedy. We look for God’s comfort, His strength, for people who show up with food and ready to clean a house. We can offer gratitude no matter which season or circumstance we are in, as our Father is not asking for gratitude for everything.
God wants us to fight back wielding gratitude to take the territory where the enemy wants to dwell.
Thankfulness changes the trajectory we travel. It equips us to listen well, look past the problems, and focus on the Provider. Gratitude breaks the reflex of grumbling and affords us to be God-honoring stewards of our thoughts and responses.
I would love to hear from you. Please leave your insight on how gratefulness changes your outlook. How is it challenging you?