Last week we were looking at forgiveness – or lack of forgiveness – as one aspect of living out our Christian values. This week I want to look at another aspect of living out our values in our lives. This time I want to look at complaining! I think it would be fair to say that we all do a bit of complaining in our lives.
In fact, I have noticed as this period of dealing with Covid-19 progresses there are more and more people complaining about the restrictions that are being imposed upon us. At the beginning there was a kind of stoic approach with everyone wanting to play their part in restricting the transmission of the virus. Nowadays it is just getting to be a bit inconvenient and we are getting slightly intolerant.
Complaining does come easily to us. Don’t think for a minute that I am exempting myself from that criticism. If I look back a year, I was probably moaning to myself that this time of year was just getting silly. With Meetings, Harvest, Remembrance, not to mention having Advent and Christmas on the horizon to organise, there was no time to do anything!
However, I wish I could take it all back now! I wish that I was in the middle of full scale planning for all these events instead of wondering how on earth we are going to celebrate all these important occasions. I do feel a bit like the Israelites that appear Exodus Ch 16 vs 2-15.
These Israelites, having been freed from slavery by Moses, were now wandering in the desert, not really knowing where they were going and just a bit fed up with the monotony of it all. So they complained bitterly to Moses and his brother Aaron. They complained that they were hungry and they expressed a longing to be back in Egypt, where they had plenty to eat, conveniently forgetting, of course, that they had been slaves and had been treated cruelly there.
When life gets tough it is easy to paint a rosy picture of the past and forget all the blessings of your present life. That is probably where most of us are – we too are fed up of wandering in the wilderness – in the Covid wilderness. We long to go back to the time before it came to us. But, let me ask you this: was that a time a great blessing where everything was perfect and you never complained?
I suspect not, but that is how it seems to us now. However, the situation we find ourselves in at present is our reality. There is no going back.
We need to go to the scriptures and take comfort from God’s word. He comes to Moses and tells him what He is going to do. He is going to take care of the Israelites. Just as He took care of them in the past and brought them out of slavery so he will lead them to the Promised Land. Immediately He is going to provide food for them by sending quails and manna (bread). He would send the food day by day with instructions on how it was to be gathered.
God indeed was providing for them one day at a time with special instructions to cover the seventh day, the day of rest. This has resonance in the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s gospel: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew Ch 6 vs 34)
I remember that my grandmother had a wall hanging in her bedroom that said “God will provide.” As a child I didn’t really understand but that is a lesson we all need to learn. God has provided for us in the past and He will provide for us in the future.
That was the lesson the complaining Israelites needed to learn. We need to learn it too, especially at this time. Part of the reason we complain is that we no longer are in control. We feel at the mercy of outside forces, just like the Israelites. They had to learn that God was with them every step of the way on their journey. So do we in this our wilderness journey!
We have to learn to let go – and let God guide us forward. Put our trust in Him. He hasn’t let us down so far and I don’t think He will let us down in the future! It is a bit of a scary place to be at present but we always have a faithful friend beside us.
Complaining is never the answer. Instead we should take our worries to God, share them and be prepared to be surprised by His answer, He is faithful and will provide for us. Perhaps not in the way we expect but in the way He knows is best for us! Our Christian belief should point us to trust.
Lord, we bring our praise that you have been with us at all times even when we may have doubted it
We praise you that when we complain, you hear us and respond to us
Your faithfulness to us is difficult for us to comprehend because we are not always faithful in our love for you
But you are a true and faithful friend, and we don’t deserve you
But we will make the effort to serve you better
We would try to work for you in this our community, so we pray for it now
Be with all who feel that they are living in a wilderness at present
Lord, hear them when they cry out in anger, frustration or in a sense of hopelessness
Give them the reassurance that you are with them at all times
Use us to feed them with your love
Encourage us to offer a word of hope and any practical help that might be needed
Lord we do pray for our communities that they work for all and have a shared sense of direction and hope
May they be places where your love is practised and your compassion is shared
Lord bless everyone in them
For we ask it in Jesus’ name
Rev Nik Wooller
27th September 2020