meditations

It's no good grumbling

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The story is told of Julius Caesar who, after planning a lavish feast and entertainment for his friends, woke on the appointed day to find nasty weather. He grumbled and murmured all the day long until his anger overcame him, and he ordered his soldiers to shoot their arrows into the sky at their god Jupiter. Well, of course, the arrows didn’t quite reach Jupiter but on returning to Earth did impale several of the archers.

Murmuring … grumbling … who among us is free from it? Imagine if every thought you had in an average day was played back for you like a marathon reality television show (the very thought is a little terrifying!). How much of it would consist of murmuring or grumbling? The moment we arise in the morning, it starts, and it continues until sleep overtakes us.

I won’t even begin listing examples, because they are ubiquitous and constant. Murmuring, whether we admit it or not, comes naturally to the creatures (us) and we tend, therefore, to minimize it (when we even realize we are indulging in it.)

But we minimize at our own risk, because murmuring is, as Scripture repeatedly reminds us, one of our greatest and most dangerous rebellions. Examples abound of God’s people who, finding that what He has promised comes not when desired or that it looks considerably different than imagined, turn to grumbling. Or, again, those threatened by the life and message of Jesus, murmur about, among many other things, with whom he keeps company.

Why does the Lord admonish so strongly against murmuring … against a little complaining that, after all, everyone does? Our grumbling, even about the most mundane things, says of us far more than we are aware. It expresses our lack of trust in the providence of God and tells us that we know better than He does. It is self-righteousness in its most basic and commonplace form, and self-righteousness is the single greatest barrier we put between us and the joyful fruits of the promises of being in relationship with God.

Murmuring feeds on itself, magnifying our troubles, nourishing them and growing them until they consume our time, our hearts and our minds, and, like Caesar’s arrows, return to pierce us with our own discontent.

So, what is the remedy? How can we protect ourselves against the arrows?

Well, first we must know that we can’t protect ourselves from anything. It is for us to put off our own righteousness and take up the righteousness of God, to examine ourselves, to be watchful, to pray, even beg, for deeper trust and faith in the providence of God. It is to saturate our hearts and minds in the love and peace and grace of the Lord so the space left for murmuring is ever smaller.

The noise of the world is deafening, filled with our combined murmurings and grumblings. As children of God, we are called to something higher. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians (2:14-16) “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

How much better is it to shine a light than to dodge the arrows?

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