Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15
"Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel grumbled." Exodus 16:2
There is a lot of grumbling in the Scriptures and God was not at all pleased with it. "And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled" Num 11:1 If one studied the things that upset God the most in the Bible, complaining would have to be near the top of the list. One of the main words for grumbling in Hebrew is lun. The etymology of the word seems to mean to growl. Complaining and murmuring in our life speaks of two major spiritual problems. It is a discontent with God’s wise power and a questioning of His loving care for us.
In the first place when we grumble we question the wisdom of God’s plans for us. "Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert." All through the Exodus the Jewish people wanted to go back to Egypt’s fleshpots! When God leads us forward to the Promised Land we must change. All growth demands a change in us, and usually change is painful. Discontent stunts our spiritual growth. It is a profound failure to understand God’s Providence for us. It is a form of resisting God’s wisdom prepared from the foundation of the world.
Secondly, when we grumble we doubt God’s care for us. "But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!" We attribute to God the most terrible motives! We are like a small child refusing to take our medicine from a loving mother because it tastes bad. In Mark’s Gospel when they are in the midst of a terrible storm at sea they cry out: "it does not matter to you that we are perishing!" 4:38 is there anything more hurtful we can say to God who gave His Beloved Son on the cross to us?
To murmur in dissatisfaction at God’s guidance of our lives is a terrible insult to God’s incredible love for us in Jesus. I love St Augustine’s quote when as an ailing old man he was asked how he was doing. He answered. I can’t walk, I can’t stand, and I can’t even sit without pain. "Yet even so, since it is the Lord’s good pleasure, what should I say but that I am well."
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.