Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses and test them to see if they are completely trained. The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainers force the horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and of course, they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle. The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience, he gives them a signal to go back to drink. Now, this may be severe but when you are in the trackless desert of Arabia and your life is entrusted to a horse, you had better have a trained obedient horse.
The wilderness journeys of these people are much like those Arabian horses. They are being conditioned to readily recognize that God is totally in control. God will lead where he sovereignly deems helpful. He will provide miraculously. He will protect.
Much like any of us in similar situations, the Children of Israel did not care much for the training. They began to complain. “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:24). How dangerous is complaining? We do it all the time, right? Winter has lasted too long. The weather is too hot. My car doesn’t cooperate. Dinner isn’t my favorite. It happens without us giving it a thought.
There are a few dangers of complaining. First, it cripples you. Complaining makes you the victim of circumstances which discourages you. Staying mentally healthy during a wilderness trial is crucial. Jesus taught his disciples to “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Appreciating what we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have could be the helmet of salvation which protects your mind in life’s struggles.
Complaining also infects others. In the Bible, we are warned against “defiling” others. This word is a fascinating picture. It means to “paint in color.” Every time we complain, we taint the minds of others by flinging paintbrushes of paint on them. After a while, the paint is caked on you and you feel rotten! “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
Lastly, complaining dishonors God. Complaining is really a lust for more. Such unfulfilled desires lead to anxiety or anger and in the end, hopelessness and despair. Complaining is an undercover vice which spoils the vines of gratitude in our lives. Ask the Lord to help you think on things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and good report (Philippians 4:8). Every circumstance you face is another test for you to grow in obedience to God.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).