May 15

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “grumbling.”

I fear I have been doing a fair amount of grumbling.

You see, it is a curious thing to simultaneously appreciate and hate the drugs that are making me better. I began chemotherapy on February 1st with a sense of thankfulness. After weeks of the mentally and physically exhausting diagnostic process, with so much unknown and feeling so helpless, I was so excited to be able to start doing something to “fight back” against the cancer. As mentioned before, I was excited to “start kickin’ cancer’s booty.” 🙂
Now, as chemotherapy approaches, I am filled with dread and I get pretty whiny, especially to God. “God, why do I have to do more of this treatment? Why do I have to be confined to my couch for the next 5 days, vomit repeatedly, be unable to speak more than a few words at a time without becoming more nauseated, etc?”

And I wonder. Does God get angry? Does He say, “My child – you are blessed to live in an age where these treatments are developed, to be able to afford these treatments, to have multiple medications to combat the side effects. You were calling to me to cure your cancer, and I have given you access to the drugs needed! Would you go back to the days of knowing you were ill but not fighting against it?”

I wonder. For scripture speaks against this grumbling.
Numbers 11:1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them His anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
Numbers 14:1-2, 26-27 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. Al the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!”…The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.”
In fact, I encourage you to read all of Numbers 11-14. It is a sobering tale.
See, as I’ve learned about those complaining Israelites since childhood, I’ve pictured it this way: I’ve always imagined a bunch of dusty old Hebrews, walking around their tents muttering yiddish under their breath all day long, muttering complaints about their situation all day, without stop. I equated grumbling with discontented muttering – very audible and constant.
But that’s probably not right. They probably had moments of smiles, moments of laughing at their adorable children, moments of sharing jokes, etc. But their overall mindset was to focus on what they didn’t have (meat!). They mistakenly felt God didn’t know what He was doing and should have left them in Egypt. God was present, was providing for their daily needs, and yet they prayed for more, for better, for different.

Yep, that’s me. God is giving me what I need to LIVE, and I grumble about how it’s slow, how it’s not pleasant. I don’t want the manna anymore – even though it’s keeping me alive. I want meat, good tasting meat. I’m sorry God.

This is also sobering: it says they “complained about their HARDSHIPS.” Yeah, that sounds like they were justified in what they were complaining about, doesn’t it? They weren’t complaining about good things, but about hardships. Hardships. But guess what?! That didn’t make it OK to complain!

We justify our complaining, whining, neediness before God, don’t we? Maybe you don’t, but I do. But God, it’s so HARD. What I’m dealing with is so HARD! So you are ok with me whining to you about it, right?

I’m just asking that we think about this. I know, God does say to cast our burdens on Him, does love us enough to handle our fears and needs. I believe that. I am encouraged by the frank words of David, who cried out in the Psalms about unjustices against himself.

But do we take it too far? Does casting our cares and burdens become grumbling? God will judge. I think I should spend more time recalling God’s sovereignty, His faithfulness, His constant Love, His daily provisions. Not whining about poor, pitiful me.

(Aside: Again, I encourage you to be careful as you try to minister to hurting people. We are probably too quick at times to say, “It’s ok to be down. It’s ok to complain, it’s ok to be angry.” There may be a place for that, but I’m not sure that is the best way to encourage someone who is suffering, at least most of the time.)

I Corinthians 10:10 And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.

I believe as Christians, we should all be grateful optimists. We should all see the glass as half full – NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. (Philippians 4:10-13)
Don’t rationalize by calling yourself a “realist.” Before you let any complaining word come out of your mouth, think about GRUMBLING. Don’t be a grumbler! (Don’t make me call you out on Facebook – a HOTBED for grumbling!)

Sorry, don’t want to be judgmental. Certainly, I’m working on it too.

Cultivate a grateful heart. I think that’s Sarah Young’s phrase. If we really do this, it is quite a good preventative measure against grumbling. If we are busy counting our blessings, it doesn’t leave time for complaining. And there is ALWAYS something for which to be thankful. Like just now, I can be thankful that I figured out how to end that last sentence without a preposition! Hee hee. No, there are even better things than that, if you can imagine!
In my example, even when chemo has me feeling awful, I can be thankful that I am still alive to be “feeling” anything, even bad. And we can ALL be thankful that in the end (really, the beginning), we will be in a place of no more sorrow, no more tears, and no more pain! Nothing can take that away from us.

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us – And He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a gift of grace.”
-Thomas Merton

“Maybe we could spend a moment at the end of each day and decide to remember that day – whatever may have happened – as a day to be grateful for. In so doing we increase our hearts capacity to choose joy.”
-Henri Nouwen
(For those of us with kids, let’s not wait until November to ask our kids what they are thankful for. Maybe we could ask every night at bedtime – “What is something that you were very thankful for today?”)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.”
-Philippians 4:6

Just some thoughts that have been simmerin’ and swishin’ in the old noggin these days.

Here’s to a grateful week!
I’m grateful for all of you!

– Your Sara

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