Think about a stressful situation you’ve faced recently. Maybe it had to do with parenting young children, your job, or a particular relationship. Now consider this: How did you respond to that situation? Was it productive or counter-productive?
In Exodus 16:2–8, the nation of Israel faced its own stressful situation. For years, they had been slaves in Egypt, and in their misery, they cried out to God for rescue. God heard their cries and sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand their release. And when Pharaoh refused, God demonstrated both His care for the Israelites and His power by bringing them out of slavery and defeating the Egyptians at the Red Sea. Very appropriately, Israel responded to God’s deliverance of them by worshiping Him (Exodus 15:1–21).
Then God brought them to the wilderness. And when a huge group of people like the Israelites enters into a place like the wilderness, a natural question arises: “Where will we get food?” This is a question that the Israelites could have asked in faith. But instead, they chose to grumble, interpreting their situation as hopeless. They even began to romanticize their time in Egypt, remembering all the wonderful food they ate there—conveniently ignoring the whole ‘slavery’ part (Exodus 16:2–3).
Where was God in their assessment of the situation?
At best, they figured God was the One who could have killed them off in Egypt, but chose not to. But ultimately, God doesn’t seem to be much of a factor at all in their assessment. Rather, they directed their complaint to Moses, saying that he was the one who had brought them into the wilderness to die. But Moses reinterpreted the situation for them: it was God who brought them out of Egypt, and it was He—not Moses—that they were really complaining about (verses 6–8). God had just proven His power and care for them in delivering them from slavery, and they could have trusted Him to demonstrate that same care and power in this new situation.
I’m tempted to judge the Israelites when I read this scene. But the truth is, my actions often mirror theirs. When faced with stressful situations, my default response is to complain. I often fail to factor God into my assessment of such situations. In seasons of financial stress, for example, when the natural question of “How will I pay for this?” arises, my stress becomes grumbling, and I fail to see that my grumbling is really against God, who has brought me to this situation and who promises to be with me (Hebrews 13:5).
What about you? When do you find yourself grumbling? Is God’s nearness and care a relevant factor in how you assess and respond to stressful situations? In what ways might your grumbling actually be a grumbling against God?
In stressful situations, Paul’s words in Romans 8:32 are useful to remember: “[God] did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?”
When we consider Jesus’s death on the cross, we can’t conclude that God doesn’t care about us. He has proven His care for us in the costliest way possible. So when faced with stressful situations, may we factor into our response a God who cares, a God who hears, and a God who is powerful enough to one day put an end to all that troubles us in this life.
Additional Resources for Stressful Situations: