Enjoyed the article? Donate now to help us to continue to provide free resources like this one.

×

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

– 1 Cor. 10:9-11

 

My wife and I lost our baby recently. Sienna had what is known as a ‘molar pregnancy’ – an incredibly rare defect where the placenta goes rogue and doesn’t do its job of providing nutrients to the baby. When she went for the 13-week ultrasound (I was travelling in Newfoundland at the time), the technician could not find a heartbeat.

We were devastated.

Our first child was gone.

Where we expected to hear a heartbeat, we heard deafening silence.

But then, to make matters worse, we both got COVID two days after finding out we had lost our baby. Not the light cough version of COVID either, but the five days of fever, coughing, headaches, chills, exhaustion, and soreness version. To add insult to injury, there was a concern from the doctors in regards to some cells taken from Sienna that appeared cancerous.

One trial after another.

One gut-wrenching punch after another.

This led to a long season of lament for Sienna and me, but especially for her. There were times that we knew our child was with Jesus, but we didn’t feel that Jesus was with us. All kinds of discouraging thoughts and emotions happen in grief, and there were moments when we felt that “Darkness has become my only companion” (Psalm 88:18).

This is precisely why we have lament in the Bible.

Lament can help us to articulate the loneliness and despair in times of grief, but it also keeps us tethered to the truths of God’s character and His word.[1]

However, during this season of lament, I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 in my daily bible readings. In this text, Paul is explaining how ancient Israel’s history is intended as instruction for us that we might NOT follow in their steps.[2]

Paul then lists several historical examples of their disobedience, and each time says that we must not follow in their example.

Interestingly, one of the examples Paul gives of behaviours we ought to not copy is Israel’s “grumbling” (vs. 10).

Grumbling is when our grief and anguish drives us not further into the promises and comfort of God, but rather farther from God.

This struck me, as I was in a time of lament. We often found ourselves complaining about how hard things were and how difficult this season of trial after trial was. We shared often how we felt abandoned by our Good Shepherd, and felt exposed to the prowling and snarling wolves.

It got me wondering, when does ‘lament’ become ‘grumbling’?

As you read Israel’s story, they often grumbled against Moses and Aaron. In moments where food was scarce, comfort was absent, and danger felt imminent, Israel regretted they had ever left Egypt.

They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” (Ex. 14:11-12)

’Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” (Ex. 16:3)

“‘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?’” (Num. 14:2-3)

The challenging circumstances they encountered in the desert did not lead to a further trust in God, but rather it led to a hardened rebellion against God’s purposes.

In their grief, they proclaimed, “We don’t want God, we want Egypt!”

Herein lies the difference between lament and grumbling.

Grumbling is when our grief and anguish drives us not further into the promises and comfort of God, but rather farther from God.

When it seems like sorrows and griefs are our lot, and a season of hardship has been ordained for us, we can be tempted to desire the comforts we once had more than the purposes and promises of God.

In the long dark nights of suffering, comfort and ease can quietly become idols that we look to for hope. We long for easier days. We wish we could go back. We become angry at God for all the hardships we are encountering, and this forms a hardened heart and a deep lack of satisfaction in God and His purposes alone.

But that is not lament, that is grumbling.

Yes, lament says, “Confess your anguish. Confess your pain. Lay it out bear!” However, lament then directs us to turn our eyes upon Christ, the many comforts promised to us through the Holy Spirit, and we are reminded of the provision and contentment that comes in Christ!

Lament is what can lead us to join with the Apostle Paul (as he writes while suffering in prison, mind you) and say, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”[3]

Perhaps you have found yourself not in a season of lament, but in a season of grumbling.

Has your hope been directed back to the comforts you once had, as your heart grows cold and embittered towards God? Have your afflictions caused your affections to change?

There is a secret to contentment, and Paul reminds us it is found in Christ alone.

This life is full of trials, sufferings, and griefs that will drive us to either lament or grumble. We must learn how to ask, “How long, O Lord?”[4] but then let that question drive us further into God’s promises and not into grumbling against God’s purposes.

In an ironic turn, the Lord Himself laments Israel’s grumbling,

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?”[5]

In seasons of trial, let us not be grumblers and forget all His many provisions. Let us instead remember all His wonderful and good promises, and may they drive us to cling to the strength that only Christ provides.

 

 


[1] I more fully define Lament in this article – https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-art-of-lament/

[2] 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.”

[3] Philippians 4:11-13

[4] Psalm 13:1

[5] Num. 14:11

LOAD MORE
Loading