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We Complain Because We Forget

I am stunned every time I read the story of the Exodus. How can the people of Israel complain like they do? How could they be so ignorant, so stupid, so forgetful?

The God of the universe had just tossed around the most powerful man on the face of the earth like a toddler with a rag doll. God didn’t just humble Pharaoh; he broke his spirit and revealed Pharaoh’s impotence. A slave people and their God left him and his nation in shambles. This display of power sent vibrations throughout the world, inspiring fear and awe.

The Deadly Disease of Spiritual Amnesia

Yet Israel’s response to this spectacular deliverance from Egypt is not mainly praise, worship and whole-hearted trust. Instead, Israel responds with grumbling—complaining, murmuring, quarreling. “No water, Moses! Where’s the beef, Moses? I have blisters on my feet, Moses. Who died and made you boss? Are we there yet, Moses?” Spiritual amnesia set in quickly and covered the eyes of Israel’s hearts. So soon had they forgotten God’s gracious and miraculous deliverance?

This spiritual amnesia—forgetting God’s deliverance and provision—is a deadly disease. The people of Israel, on the heels of unthinkable miracles, with their pockets full of Egyptian jewelry, grumble at their less-than-five-star accommodations in the desert. This wasn’t just headache-induced grumbling or low-blood-sugar complaining. This was faithlessness. It is the heart that says, “I know better than God. If only he would follow my plan.”

Why We Complain

And yet that’s my heart and yours. “Where’s the dinner, honey? Leftovers again? Where’s the protein? Is that all you got done today? Can you change the dirty diaper? What’s this sticky stuff on the chair?” I can be just like the people of Israel. “I know you’ve forgiven all my sins at the cross, rescued me from eternal conscious torment and given me everlasting joy in your presence, but all we have for dinner is Ramen or Cheerios.”

Grumbling, whining and thanklessness are not ultimately the heart’s responses to circumstances, but to God. Israel grumbled at their enslavement, grumbled when Moses came on the scene and still grumbled as they wandered safely in the wilderness. Their complaining wasn’t rooted in their scenery, but their heart.

The same is true for you. A heart of gratitude and thankfulness isn’t dependent on your bank statement, doctor’s diagnosis or the praise you receive for a job well done. Thanklessness and grumbling—regardless of your situation, even your suffering—reflect your heart. They are sin. Spiritual amnesia is a deadly disease that threatens your faith and your joy more than any cancer. It penetrates to the core and rots your heart from within.