At the same time, I’m unbelievably grateful to live in a country where we enjoy, for the most part, a just legal system and property rights that protect women and children. And, for better or worse, we have a social safety net that, although it is sometimes abused, is available to the most vulnerable members of our society who desperately need assistance. I am truly thankful that if something happens to my husband, my in-laws will not be permitted to come and take my house and throw me out into the streets. Despite what critics say about our country, we do care for the poor and the fatherless — so much that we argue about the best way to do it rather than whether to do it.
When I hear stories like the one about the hippo attack, I realize how much I complain — and how little I really have to complain about. And I’m reminded how much God hates it. Back in the days of Moses, in Numbers 14, when the Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land, the people rose up and complained to Moses about their plight and thought maybe they’d have been better off staying in Egypt, where they were slaves.
And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
God didn’t mince words in answering their complaints:
And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?”
God pointed out that in complaining about their circumstances and their leaders, they were complaining about Him — despising Him, even, and demonstrating a lack of faith.
That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?
The Bible continually warns against complaining and encourages contentment, despite our circumstances:
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:7-8).
And Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Sometimes, we need to have our consciences jarred in order to give us a new perspective and to teach us to be grateful for all that we enjoy. The hippo was that kind of moment for me. I challenge you to watch the world around you this week and look for opportunities to express gratitude to God for the blessings in your life.
And maybe work on your grumbling, if that’s a problem for you.
Also, if you think about it, will you keep Mary, the new widow in Kenya, and her children in your prayers?