One of the verses that my kids have memorized in their Sunday school class is Philippians 2:14: "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." As a mom, I love this verse! It’s like ammunition against my kids' constant whining and fighting. I fire off these words multiple times a day, often adding complaining and arguing to the list to further emphasize my point. Recently, I have started to see that like my kids, I also whine a lot. However, unlike my kids, I tend to hide it well. I can cover my sin of grumbling and complaining with culturally acceptable terms like “venting” or “verbal processing.” But, when biblical language is applied to my rants there is no denying the truth: I am a grumbler and complainer.

Grumbling in the Desert

The story of the Israelites in the desert has been helpful in further identifying my sin of grumbling and complaining. What follows their deliverance from Egypt has always baffled me. There is a short time of jubilee and then there is a lot of whining. For awhile there, it seems that in every other chapter someone is complaining, lamenting of being freed from slavery: “But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’” (Exodus 17:2-3).

My initial reaction to their grumbling and complaining is harsh judgment. Don’t they see what God has done for them? How can they be so blind to the power of God? How can they so quickly reject the One who has saved them and turn to other gods? As I read this portion of Scripture, it is easy to point my finger at the Israelites and call out their sin. When the Israelites grumble they are forgetting what God has done for them, they are losing sight of the big picture and focusing on their circumstances. They see that there is no food in the desert so they complain and even after God provides food for them, they hoard it, fearful that they will be hungry tomorrow (Exodus 16). They are thirsty, but rather than asking in faith for God to help, they grumble and question God’s goodness (Exodus 17). Furthermore, they forsake the work of God and credit their deliverance to a golden calf (Exodus 32). The sin of the Israelites is obvious and it seems absurd that they wouldn’t trust the God who just delivered them out of Egypt, but am I really any different?

Grumbling in my Life

In my self-righteousness and pride, I can imagine myself as a sort of super-Israelite that would have been faithful. But, here I am, with the privilege of knowing the end of the story, still grumbling about laundry, complaining about finances, and whining about how no one understands.

My grumbling and complaining make a statement about what I believe about God. When I complain, I am saying that God is not faithful, that he is not enough, and that he doesn’t love me. When I declare that “things will be better if only I had this or that,” I am worshiping a false god, denying that God alone can save me. When I grumble and complain I am discontent in what has been graciously given to me, and I am not trusting God or believing his promises.  

In addition, my grumbling and whining leaves me looking at myself and my circumstances and wanting others to do the same. I desire attention and sympathy. I want someone to recognize my situation and say, “Yeah, that does stink!” or “Wow! How do you do it all?” In my sin, I desire to be made much of, to be worshiped. But, I, like the Israelites, remain unsatisfied because what I need is a Savior.

Remember What God Has Done

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. God wants us to remember this great story so we remember our great God. Also, this story foreshadows a greater rescue to come: it points to God sending his perfect Son to die on the cross for our sins to deliver us from death and reconcile us to himself. We are to remember what God has done: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).

This truth should saturate our lives. As believers in Christ, our eternity is secure, our biggest problem, our sin problem, has been taken care of. Remembering what Jesus has done for us should change how we view our day-to-day circumstances. As a Christian, we are not promised a life without suffering or heartache or disappointment. We will be sinned against and we will sin against others. Our work will overwhelm us. Our family and friends will disappoint us. We will suffer. But, we should respond differently.

We are to remember that God has not forsaken us (Hebrews 13:5). He has reconciled us (2 Corinthians 5:18). He is rich in love and abounding in mercy (Psalm 145:8). He is strong and mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17). And by grace alone, he has saved us (Ephesians 2:5). The list of truths goes on and on. Remember what God has done; rejoice in the truth of the Gospel: “If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can dwell on these things, grumble less, and have the ability to repent when we stumble.

Patty Bourassa

Patty Bourassa graduated from the University of Montana in 2006 and has attended Sovereign Hope since 2002. She has been married to her husband, Daniel, since 2007 and is a stay-at-home mom with her five children.