We’ve touched on the danger of hope-killers, those predators which attack our hopes and dreams. Anxiety is a big one. But there’s another, more subtle enemy of hope—complaining. Griping is so woven into our culture that it feels like a birthright. We complain about the weather, the food, long lines, rude workers, bad drivers, you name it. It’s second nature to whine when we don’t have enough of this, or too much of that, or when whomever or whatever is not working out for us. Even if we don’t say it out loud, complaining can become a habitual part of our inner dialogue. You get the point.
The Bible calls this behavior grumbling, and warns against it repeatedly: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”(Philippians 2:14). Some translations use the word “murmuring.” The Greek word gongysmos, translated “grumbling,” is defined as “a muttering, murmuring, low and suppressed discourse; the expression of secret and sullen discontent, murmuring, complaint.” Ouch!
How does complaining hinder our dreams? Let’s take a look at the children of Israel. They were chosen by God for a purpose. He picked a man named Moses to lead the people to a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 10:11-12).
But soon, they began to complain about hardships—the food, the fatigue, the water. Their grumbling angered God and frustrated Moses. When the time finally came for them to take possession of the land, Moses sent out 12 spies who returned with this negative report: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! But the people who live there are powerful. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:26-33).
Caleb and Joshua tore their clothes, pleading with the people. “We should go up and take possession of the land,” said Caleb. “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:1-9). The Israelites became furious at Joshua and Caleb and threatened to stone them.
So the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:20-23).
God called their grumbling contempt. Rebellion. In short–it was unbelief. And it would cost that generation of the children of Israel their dream. It’s the unbelief at the core of grumbling which blocks the very hope God wants to give us when we trust in Him.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).