My son is a whiner. He whines about all sorts of things! Even things that go his way tend to be whined about at some point. For example, if he is allowed to skip a nap, there is inevitably whining because he now does not know what activities will compose his afternoon.
But, he is making progress. Recently on our family blog I shared about his naptime improvements. Nap was a very difficult time for us. I would tell him it was time for bed, and he would immediately begin his tearful protest. We have finally made progress such that now he speaks an enthusiastic, “Yes, ma’am!” when I tell him it’s naptime. Ah, the joy it has been!
But, I noticed something a couple of weeks ago as naptime was approaching. Not long after we were all excused from the lunch table, Steven asked me in a somewhat tearful voice, “Is it naptime right now?” I responded that it was not – that I would let him know. He said okay and went on with his business, but I could tell he was not entirely thrilled at the prospect of impending naptime. When the time came, however, and I called him to prepare for his nap, he responded with great cheerfulness and went straight to his room to await my arrival.
As I have been reading and studying through Exodus for Sunday school, I have seen repeated instances of Israelite whining – and I have been faced with my own tendencies to gripe and complain in similar fashion. Far too frequently I more greatly resemble the Israelites than I do my son.
I am not going to always like what God puts before me. In fact, I will regularly be less than pleased with the challenges that face me. It is understandable that, like Steven, I will struggle with the discouragement of the coming challenge. But, just as I know that, no matter how distasteful it is to him, Steven desperately needs his nap, so God knows exactly what I need. It is okay to not like it. Steven still does not like his naps. But, when I say that it is time for his nap, he now comes willingly and pleasantly. Sometimes he still asks why he has to nap, a little tear forming in his eye. It usually doesn’t take much to cheer him right back up, though, through a laugh and a song. I try to make the experience as pleasant for him as possible, filling his needs with joy.
God is not just throwing around words when He claims that He wants us to be filled with joy. He means it with the fullness of all that He is. Yes, even in the midst of all that we dislike in life. I work hard to cheer Steven in the face of the dreadful nap. God works with infinitely more ability to fill us with inexplicable joy in the face of our needs.
Equally, just as it is difficult for me to cheer Steven when he begins with whining and tears, even so there is much to overcome for our provision of joy when we choose to begin with bitterness instead of willingness.
We don’t have to like what is before us. But we are told to trust that God knows best and to willingly step forward with positive determination. It is then that God moves beyond comprehension to fill us with joy and peace while we pass through the frustration.