Those Who Complain of Adversity

In Exodus and Numbers we read of God’s delivering His people out of the slavery of Egypt. As the people are trekking through the wilderness they begin a pattern of complaining. In Numbers 11 we see one such incident. Scripture says that “the people became like those who complain of adversity.” [1]

We see in this passage that the people were recounting their lives in Egypt as though they were in club med.
Oh, we had such good food to eat and it was all free! [2]

Wow, what a terrible memory we humans have. If they had stopped to consider the reality of the lives that God had delivered them from they would have remembered their slavery and abuse. Their meals weren’t free and neither were they. The food they so fondly remembered eating was the food of the common people; the impoverished. But Psalms tells us that what God was feeding them in the wilderness was the bread of angels! [3] This was food that God provided while they slept. While they were unaware God was working to make sure His people had what they needed.

Manna tasted like honey and the people were allowed to prepare it anyway they wanted. We see that the people would grind it, then boil it or bake it. And “an honest attempt at gathering it” always led to each one having enough.[4] But any attempt to exercise greed never led to anyone having any more than another; hoarding the stuff led to rot and maggots.

As my imagination runs away with me I begin to think of bagels and donuts. I don’t know about you but this sure sounds an awful lot like a bagel. I do so love a good bagel especially with a generous honey almond cream cheese schmear.

Even more miraculous was that on any day other than the day before the Sabbath collecting extra and having it lasting overnight was not possible. On the day before the Sabbath, however, a person could gather more in preparation for the Lord’s Day and God made sure it would last and be sufficient. This was because no manna would appear on the Sabbath.

So here in Numbers 11 we see the people of God, the ones He has rescued out of slavery living off of the bread of angels supplied sufficiently for their every need and with the freedom to be creative in its preparation looking at this stuff and complaining;

“but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” [5]

Psalms lays it out bluntly for us. They didn’t believe in God. They didn’t trust in His salvation. [6]

So then how is a child of God to look at and live in adversity?

We must promptly realize that it is God who has made both prosperity and adversity. [7] God is not in the business of personal comfort for His children. He is not in the business of earthly pleasure or happiness. He no more created prosperity to reward His good children than adversity for his wayward ones. No, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.[8] But rain like prosperity and adversity can be both a blessing and a curse. The difference is perspective.

Both prosperity and adversity are for the purpose of sanctification and often the key to recognizing which one you are experiencing hinges on eyes that are full of wisdom. We see this example when God provides the meat for the children of Israel in the wilderness. They, I’m sure saw this as abundance of the meat as prosperity but the end result was disease and sickness due to their desire to gorge themselves. They experienced adversity by the means of human prosperity. Such is the case for many of us today. The difference between prosperity and diversity is in perspective which is exactly what God is working in our lives to change. He desires we leave behind our earthly fallen perspective on life and live in a fresh new Kingdom perspective. He flips the world upside down and we would do well to just let go, throw our hands up in the air and yell Wheeee!

So does this mean that God does not or will not provide the means for earthly pleasure, comfort and happiness for His children? Is He disinterested in our pleasure and happiness? No, not at all. He is a better Father than any earthly father and a good earthly father desire both of these things for his children. In fact, one of a parent’s greatest joys is to watch their little ones living in the pleasure, happiness and gratitude of things provided for them. So I must believe that God also enjoys watching His children enjoy and gain pleasure from what He has provided because He is so much better than any earthly father.

So if God is interested in our pleasure and happiness then why would He allow adversity? It is because God knows that true perfect pleasure stems from a root of wisdom in his children. He knows that while money and prosperity offer momentary protection He also knows that money and prosperity move like the wind and their protection is removed along with them. They blow into our lives in a moment and blow out the next. They are fleeting because they are elements of this fleeting life but wisdom is a different story.

Wisdom, scripture tells us protects just like money. The difference is only one will preserve your life. God desires to preserve life first and offer pleasure second because only a life preserved through His Son can experience true pleasure.

 “For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.” [9]

Wisdom causes us to consider the works of God rather than our own works. Wisdom causes us to know that only what God accomplishes will last well beyond our earthly existence. Wisdom teaches us that God is God and we are not. This may seem like a simple notion but it is one each of us struggles with daily if not in every moment.

Say it with me, “I am not God. I am not God!”

What does this epiphany mean? It means that you and I are not master and commander of our ship. We can make plans using the provisions of God in our lives just as the children of Israel in the wilderness were allowed to prepare the manna any way they desired. But it is God who supplies the means of accomplishing those plans every time in every way.

We have nothing that we have not been given but what we have been given comes in abundance.

We don’t have to seek to make our mark on this world and hope to see the effects of what we have done long after we are gone from this life. In fact, it is an impossibility to do so. We are free to live in the moment, daily. We are free to be little children without stressful schedules and agendas so that we can rise to the top like cream. No, we feast on the bread of angels in abundance. We are free to make an honest effort in gathering for the day what is necessary and has been provided and trust that it will be enough. We are free to live as little children playing, exploring, discovering and loving all the while gaining more knowledge and wisdom about our Father and about ourselves in relation to Him.

In worrying about tomorrow you miss the beauty of today but it is the beauty of today that will build your tomorrow if you let it. If you won’t then it is the absence of the appreciation of the beauty of today that will build your tomorrow; you will become as one who complains in adversity and remembers slavery as freedom and prosperity. Oh, what a terrible skewed perspective. Adversity is there to guard us against seeking to always worry about and build our tomorrow. Tomorrow is a much brighter day when you allow the Lord to provide for it rather than seeking to gather more than you need today and hoard the goodness of God for yourself. Believe Him and Trust Him and you will incur is pleasure instead of His anger.[10]

Freedom is sweeter than slavery. The food of angels is better than the menu of the impoverished. Rest accomplishes more than worry. The protection wisdom provides is greater than the protection afforded by money. We are not God. We are his children and His children live, walk, play and love in abundance.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Nu 11:1). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Nu 11:4–9). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 78:22–31). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[4]  The Pentateuch:1996. Holdcraft, L. Thomas.  Sumas, Washington: CeeTeC Publishing.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Nu 11:4–9). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 78:22–31). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ec 7:12–14). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Matt. 5:45). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[9] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ec 7:12–14). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 78:22–31). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.