22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.
There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Exodus 15:22-26 (New International Version)
A Great Miracle
In the previous chapter in Exodus, the Lord performed an amazing miracle in Israel’s sight. He parted the Red Sea so that His people could escape from the Egyptian army that was in pursuit, and when they all crossed, the Lord brought down the sea upon the Egyptians, drowning them all. You would think that after witnessing such a great miracle that the Israelites would trust the Lord completely; after all, if He saved them then, He will save them always.
A Test of Faith
Unfortunately, as we read in Exodus 15, that was not the case. They traveled the desert for three days finding no water to drink. During these days of thirst, I wonder if the people still held on to their belief that the Lord would provide for them. After those three days, the Lord led them to water. However, the water at the oasis was undrinkable.
For the Israelites, this was the last straw. For three days, they traveled the desert with no water, trusting that God will lead them to it. However, when they finally find water, they can’t drink it! They must have felt betrayed by the Lord believing the He had brought them into the desert to die of thirst and complained to Moses about it. It is ironic that three days earlier they witnessed God saving them miraculously and praising them for it. Did they forget that the Lord was all powerful and already had a plan in dealing with this crisis?
Why We Complain?
However, we must not judge the Israelites’ lack of faith too harshly. Even us Christians have fallen victim to what I call “short-term God-memory loss.” Every day, God does amazing things in our lives. However, the moment trouble hits, our first reaction is not to trust in the Almighty but to complain to Him about it. That is because the painfulness of the experience has caused us to forget the many times the Lord has helped us before during times of hardship.
A Very Patient God
I can imagine the frustration God must have in regards to us. Every day, He provides for us, and every day we forget His provision and straight-away we complain that He is not with us. We are indeed fortunate that the God whom we serve is full of grace and patience towards us. If the Lord wasn’t so, it would be a forgone conclusion that He would have forsaken us a long time ago. Nevertheless, He endures our doubt-fueled complaints because He knows our vision is limited to our current surroundings.
Consequences for Complaining
However, that does not mean that the Lord takes our complaints lightly. When we grumble against the Almighty, we are demonstrating sinful unfaithfulness towards Him and there are always consequences when do not trust in the Almighty. How can we stop ourselves from complaining against God?
Remember He is with Us
When we face difficult times that are painful to us, we must turn away from the pain and embrace the loving arms of the Lord. He knows that the problems that we face are hard and He wants to help us in them. Before complaining, we must strive to remember the many times that the Almighty has helped us; maybe take a paper and pencil and make a list of them. As we prayerfully jot down the many times that the Lord has been with us in times of difficulty, we will discover that we have no need to grumble, for He is with us.