What you really, really want.
The first few books of the Bible is the story of the early days of God’s people – Israel. Specifically, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy deal with the formation of a people group from slaves into the nation of Israel. As you can imagine, there are just as many downs as there are with the ups in the story. And with the downs came discontent.
One of the issues Israel works through is chronic complaining. Some of them are legitimate issues – lack of water. From what I understand, water is important to live. Others are petty – “We want the fresh vegetables we enjoyed…while we were slaves!” As the leader of this fledgling nation, Moses is tasked with dealing with both the complaints themselves and the larger issue of constant complaining.
At times, God would take the matter into his own hands. In Numbers 11, the nation begins to complain about the hard life they are enduring in the wilderness, and God has had enough. He sends a fire to burn up the people. Whoa.
In this case, Moses intervenes, and he saves the people, but it doesn’t keep them from further murmuring. Literally, the very next verses tell about the people complaining about the lack of fresh vegetables.
God and the Spice Girls
Complaints signal my discontent. That seems obvious, but as I’m complaining, I don’t usually investigate further. I point out the problems I see to anyone who will listen (typically not a person who can help), but here’s what I don’t usually consider. I don’t ask this question:
What do I want?
It’s like the Spice Girls from the 90’s. “Tell me what you want…What you really, really want.” Channel your inner Spice and ask yourself: What do you want? What will truly satisfy you?
In the story in Numbers, there are two sources of complaining: the people and Moses. The people want meat and fish and cucumbers and leeks and melons and no more manna (a daily gift of bread from God!). Moses hears these complaints, and in turn, he complains to God about the people and the leadership load placed on him.
In this moment, God is good.
God knows what I need.
God, thankfully, understands the heart of man. He cuts through the frustration, anger and discontent to hear what both Moses and the people want. More importantly, God knew what the people and Moses needed. He understands the people need protein, and Moses lacks help.
God knows what you need too. God is aware of what will satisfy you.
Your complaint is a signal of your dissatisfaction. It also is your opportunity to investigate what it is you truly want and need. Your dissatisfaction gives you the chance to ask God that very question.
God, what will satisfy me?
The great news is God knows. He didn’t just know what would satisfy the Israelites. He knows what you want and need. And here is a hint to keep in mind as you ask God this question: know the source of your discontent.
The Source of Dissatisfaction
In general, there are several common sources of our complaints. Here are a few to keep in mind:
1. We discontent because we have an incomplete picture.
God doesn’t reveal to us all that He has planned for our lives. It is for our own good. Had I known one of my children would struggle with epilepsy, I may have been hesitant to have kids. Yet, when I did find out about the diagnosis, I also didn’t realize how that very condition attacking her body would shape her into an incredibly strong and capable woman.
God hasn’t shown you the whole picture for a reason. He wants you to rely on Him. When you can’t see what is ahead, and you are tempted to complain, remember there is power in the hidden things of God. His mystery is a gift to us. It forces you and I to seek Him and trust Him that much more.
Will you trust God with the incomplete picture of your life?
2. We discontent because we are ungrateful.
Gratefulness is seeing the negative circumstances in my life, but focusing on the positive instead. Even just a moment of thankfulness during a horrible day can change your entire view of life. Your complaints dry up. How can I complain when I have this wonderful child, house, car, wife?
Gratefulness is an acquired skill. We learn to be thankful from either our upbringing, or we teach ourselves as we get older. I’m working on teaching myself gratefulness. Several times a week I write a list of three things I’m grateful in my journal. It reminds me to be thankful, so I find myself complaining less about my life.
What are you grateful for today?
3. We discontent because we are afraid.
Fear is a great motivator. It’s why God gave us this emotion. However, fear, left unchecked, drives us to horrible places. Irrational fear comes from having an incomplete picture of life and ungratefulness.
The great antidote to fear is faith. In the midst of my fear, I must choose to place my faith and trust in God. He is the only one who can truly bring me satisfaction, so why should I look anywhere else?
Will you put your faith in God with the scary parts of your world?
The Ultimate Test
An incomplete picture, ungratefulness and fear are a few of the sources of our discontent, and these should help you in identifying what you really want and need. But this is where the big step comes.
Waiting on God is the ultimate test.
Once you identify the thing you are looking for, and you ask God to provide…then you wait. Waiting for God to provide is the hardest part of the journey of faith. It will be the most obvious source of discontent in your life. However, if you can make it through the waiting, you will pass the biggest test in life.
The waiting is how God shaped his people into a nation In the waiting, God made this nation hungry for a Messiah. While I wait, I am more and more dependent on this same God. Could I complain? Sure, but I am choosing to trust, be thankful and have faith while I wait on God.