The wilderness is bleak and barren. I remember while traveling in Israel and Egypt several years ago, Steve and I went to the Sinai Desert. I have to tell you; it was barren for miles! I’ve always been a bit hard on the Israelites who complained in the desert and murmured against God… until I visited the wilderness myself. As I looked at the barrenness for miles, I felt deep empathy for the Israelites, and found myself wondering, “Would I have been content in this environment?” I bent down and picked up a small stone and brought it home as a reminder – I want to nurture contentment.
Contentment is a treasured attitude with the Lord. Through the scriptures we see God honoring those with contented hearts. Psalm 34:10, Proverbs 19:23, Philippians 4:11-13, and 1 Timothy 6:6-12 all point to contentment as a core spiritual discipleship issue. Yet, the wilderness poses unique and difficult challenges, and we find ourselves feeling contentment is simply impossible. Before you go there in your thinking, pause for a moment, and consider that even in the desert, God promises to sustain His people.
In order for you and me to cling to God’s promises, we have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and let go of a few habits that are sure to uproot our contentment. What are those habits? While there are probably several, there are a few I’d like to point out: Complaining, finger-pointing, and making assumptions.
Complaining. Ah, we’ve all done it. “It’s too hot! It’s too cold! It’s unfair!” The list could go on and on. Complaining comes so naturally to us as humans that we don’t even stop and think about it. The Apostle Paul invites us to quit grumbling. He wrote, “Do everything without grumbling and complaining” (Philippians 2:4). In other words, give it a rest. Stop. Put a reminder on your phone to help you if you need it. Have Siri or Alexa remind you to stop complaining. The antidote for complaining is to give thanks. The next time you feel like complaining, stop. Then give thanks for something. You’ll be amazed at how your attitude changes.
Finger-Pointing and Blaming Others. I am astounded at how often this shows up. Our human nature likes to find fault in others and blame others for our difficulties. Don’t believe me? Scroll your news feed on social media and you’ll see all sorts of evidence for this. We are supposed to have the mindset of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Friend, let go of finger-pointing and blaming others for the difficulties God has allowed in your life. The antidote to blame-shifting is trusting God.
Making Assumptions. Isn’t it great that no one can see what goes on in the privacy of our own minds? We feel hurt or disgruntled and we draw conclusions and make assumptions without checking to verify our thoughts. It’s scary really. We assume the other person’s motives are evil towards us. Or we assume God has forgotten us. Here’s the truth: God has allowed and ordained a certain amount of suffering in the life of every believer. It’s part of your spiritual journey. The antidote to making assumptions is to check the facts. Instead of assuming the worst when you feel hurt by another, check in with that person and find out the truth. Or instead of assuming something about God, check His Word.
Friend, you may be in the wilderness right now. Learn how to let go of grumbling, blaming others, and making assumptions. Instead, cultivate contentment and you’ll flourish even in the desert.
Lord, it’s so easy when I feel like I’m in the desert to complain, grumble, point my finger at others and make assumptions. Teach me instead to bow, give thanks, trust You, and check the facts. Let me be so rooted and grounded in the truth of who You are that I don’t doubt Your goodness or Your provision even in the wilderness.