If you’re prone to talking through your problems with friends or family, you may be familiar with the question, “have you prayed about it as much as you’re talking about it?”
Gulp. Likely, perhaps, the answer is – maybe always – no. If you’re not accustomed to listening for answers, you may feel like prayer doesn’t make an impact.
God warns us against complaining, using St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to deliver a reminder and a warning (1 Corinthians 10: 1-5):
I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was no well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
In these verses, St. Paul refers to Israel after she was delivered from Egypt. All of the child of Israel were under the cloud (symbolic of the Holy Spirit), passed through the sea (symbolic of baptism), ate the spiritual food and drank the spiritual drink (symbolic of Christ’s body and blood). Yet, despite all these things, Israel still had a hard time keeping God’s commandments.
Instead of trying to scare us, St.Paul says these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things (1 Corinthians 10:6). He specifically calls out our need to avoid complaining, harkening back to language from the Old Testament where Israel complained about being delivered from Egypt. In Exodus 16:2 we read, then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron… [saying] you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
Have you ever felt lost? Abandoned? Stupid for following the path before you? I imagine that’s how the children of Israel felt in the desert. They were probably thinking, “We will die of hunger here. What other option is there? At least we knew what to expect from Pharaoh.” It’s a natural, human response. But, God calls us to be better than the conditions of our human (…read…fallen) state.
In response to Israel’s complaints, God tells Moses and Aaron that he will show his children just how perfectly he will take care of them. At night, he delivers quail and in the morning, manna – a perfect amount of each for every family to have just enough.
Often times, we complain because we don’t understand or because things aren’t going our way. We want everything to be laid out and predictable so we don’t have to rely on faith. But, my dear brothers and sisters, that’s not how this works.
The children of Israel complained. They refused to step out on faith and believe (despite literal bread falling out of the sky in the perfect amounts). And, as we all know, their actions had long-lasting consequences.
Complaining comes at a cost – both spiritually and physically. Because God gives us free will, it is our choice how we use our thoughts and voices. Do we run to him in prayer, or do we run to others in panic? If you read the article above, you’ll see research shows complaining rewires our brains to be more anxious – if that’s not a win for the enemy, I don’t know what is!?! Although complaining might “feel good,” we need to take a hint from the children of Israel and realize not everything that feels good is actually good for us. Complaining may like you’re doing something, but only prayer erases the panic we feel. Instead of paying the cost of complaining, accept the grace of God which has already be paid for.