One morning, when my oldest daughter was about fourteen, she indignantly complained that the specific pair of jeans she wanted to wear that day was not clean. Her tone clearly said: “Mom, you need to do a better job meeting my expectations.” From then on Kelley “got” to do her own laundry.

Yes, my daughter needed clean clothes. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to make the need known. Likewise, there’s a vast difference between complaining to God about the way things are going and humbly expressing a need. Israel’s time in the wilderness provides us with numerous examples. Let’s look at just one today:

 1 At the LORD’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2 So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded.

“Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?” 3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”

4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”5 The LORD said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6 I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai, Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.

7 Moses named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD here with us or not?” Exodus 17:1-7, NLT

The people had a real need. Without water they would all die. But their reaction to the need was wrong. The Bible says they “tested the LORD” by complaining to Moses.

So what’s the difference between expressing a need to God and complaining? I’ve been meditating on this for a few days. Here’s a few things I see in Scripture:

  • The people questioned God’s motives and methods.
  • When God’s way got difficult, they threatened to stop following. (Over and over Israel talked about returning to Egypt.)
  • They made demands of God with an arrogant attitude of entitlement.
  • They expected things to end badly; they didn’t anticipate God’s provision.

Yet God provided for them anyway. This has really struck me this week. Here’s my prayer:

Father, help me to humbly express my needs to You rather than complain when things don’t go my way. Teach me to trust in Your timing and provision.

In what kind of situations do you most often find yourself complaining to God?

What differences do you see between complaining and humbling expressing your needs?

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