When? When? When?
Has your heart and mind ever fallen prey to the ‘when, when, when, oh when’ cry of discontentment?
Our son, Jake wailed his own “When, oh when?” exclamation this morning. We woke up to learn that our power was off. This is a common occurrence after we have experienced a series of days with heavy, torrential, flood-inducing rainfall.
Jake was not happy. Not happy at all.
He bemoaned our situation and asked throughout the first part of the day, “When will our power come back on?”
Of course, we had no idea.
We determined that we had lost power in the wee hours of the night. It was anyone’s guess when this large-scale, power outage would be sorted.
Thankfully, after 12 hours or so, our power was restored. Jake breathed a sigh of relief. All was right in his world now. Unfortunately, as I type, our neighbors who reside just down the road, do not have such luxury yet. Their homes are plugged into a different power grid and so far, they are all still in the dark.
They’re still wondering, “When, oh when, will our power be restored?”
Theirs is a shared pain and a shared call for resolution – just as ours had been. Some of us wailed. Some of us moaned. Some of us fretted. And some of us just got on with life and did the best we could with the situation.
Yet, there are seasons and situations in life when our “when, oh when” cries become life-consuming.
We are constantly asking:
When will I finally be married?
When will I ever earn a decent income?
When will I be able to control by appetite?
When will I finally be hired?
When will I be noticed and paid attention to?
When will I stop being so hard on myself?
When will this finally be over?
When will my life be better; be different?
Now, please don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to ask these questions. We wonder about our life and we wonder about the people we love and care about. It’s okay to ask, “What’s next?” Yet, there are also times when we must discern what is happening within our hearts in times of waiting and wondering. We must guard against the rabble of a discontented spirit.
A long time ago, a group of people became upset with their situation in life. It was a temporary moment in time. They wouldn’t be where they were for long. But for one group, even the food that fell from heaven wasn’t good enough for them:
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but manna!”
New International Version, Numbers 11: 4-6
Who was this rabble?
This rabble was a mixed group of people who had followed the Israelites as they escaped Egypt. They had observed the miracles that Moses performed by the power of the Lord and they wanted to see if they could capitalize on the promises to come. As the Israelites trekked through the desert, this group followed from a distance. When it was time to camp, the rabble erected their tents on the outskirts of the Israelite camps as well. Motivated by greed, covetousness and discontented spirits, they were waiting for their own miracle to come.
However, when their hopes, wishes, and dreams were not materializing fast enough, they took their noisy complaints to the Israelites and unsettled them, too. The rabble failed to embrace the love, generosity, care, and freedom found in a relationship with God. Instead, they rejected His promises. They intentionally spoiled the appetites of all who listened to them. This rabble really had no say in what happened with the Israelites– but that didn’t prevent them from exerting their influence – to satisfy their own gluttony and greed.
What’s crazy is that the Israelites and the rabble were free from their enslavement and bondage. They were a new nation walking towards a new land promised to them by God Himself, their Deliverer, their Peace, their Strength, their Provider, their Banner, their Lord and Creator and their Heavenly, Generous Father. And yet, the food and sustenance He offered for the journey, wasn’t nearly as tasty or delicious as the food they had left behind. They failed to appreciate or welcome this provision of God – because it wasn’t what they wanted. Surveying the manna, the rabble claimed there was nothing to look at. The manna blessings were lost upon them.
Yet, instead of moving on, the rabble hung on.
Their words of greed and discontentment filtered beyond the fringed border of their camp into the hearts and minds of every Israelite family. If they were unhappy and discontent with this coriander bread, so should others be. Soon, few were praising this miraculous provision of God and instead, they begrudged it.
Am I any different?
Do I spend more of my time appreciating the blessings and provision I have or am I more preoccupied with the ‘when, when, oh when’ wailings of my discontented heart?
Do I listen to any one, particular influence who does not have my best intentions in mind, who doesn’t consider me, and who probably has no love in their heart for me, but still has the power, persistence, and persuasion to stir my heart into a frenzy?
Am I vulnerable to the rubbish-filled influence of a noisy rabble-rouser when I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for something from my God – and He hasn’t provided just yet?
The rabble claimed there was ‘nothing to look at’ as the manna fell from heaven.
How could they disregard and disvalue a miracle from heaven?
I could easily judge this group for their selfishness, insolence, and greed.
But, I must confess, I have the potential to be just as self-centered and unappreciative of all that my God is giving me – in the here and now – when I fall victim to the rabble of “when, when, when, oh when” will this, that, or the other thing finally happen in my life.
Honestly, I don’t want to fall prey to this contentious rabble – to those who have no real influence in my life and only want to stir up troublesome thoughts within me.
Instead, I desire to remember and hold fast to the promises of my God and His care for me in times of provision and in times of need:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
New International Version, Isaiah 41:10
Ultimately, the questions for us are these –
Who are we listening to?
Who has our best interests at heart?
Who really knows us and wants the best for us?
Who desires to strengthen and uplift us and see us grow and succeed?
Who loves us?
Who comes to mind as you reflect upon these questions? Whoever it is, listen to them. Don’t listen to the rabble. You’ll be the better for it. Believe me. Because if you read about what happened to all the Israelite families who listened to the rabble, things didn’t turn out all that well for them (Numbers 11: 10-35).
Instead, listen to the love and care of your friends and family’s guiding influence and the strengthening words of your God. Their affirmation remind us of the gifts of life, food, health, work, opportunity, family and friends we hold dear. We need their belief and their encouragement.
Are you listening to any kind of noisy, not-very-nice rabble, my friend?
If yes, what are you going to do about it?