If you know me at all, you know the beach is my happy place. While I only wade in the ocean, I find such peace in my soul breathing in the salt air, listening to the waves crash, and reading a book under my umbrella. So when my friend announced she had a place the three of us “Friday beach sisters” could stay for a week, I was all in.
When I told people I was headed to Wildwood, NJ, the immediate response from person after person was “you know it’s like a mile from the boardwalk to the ocean, right? That beach is WIDE!”
I started to wonder what I’d signed up for.
As soon as we arrived we dropped our bags in the room and headed for the boardwalk. From that vantage point, I got to see what everyone had warned me about. It was indeed a VERY long walk from boardwalk to ocean. Still, there was a wooden walkway over the sand that stretched at least a quarter of the distance. I also brought my beach cart specifically meant to travel over sand. It could hold our umbrellas, lunches, and beach bags as well as our chairs.
I was confident with the cart and walkway, we could make it to the water’s edge easily.
So what on earth does this have to do with Israelites and why do I feel the need to apologize to them?
Well, I love the Old Testament stories including the miraculous escape from Egypt and parting of the Red Sea. But I’ve always struggled with the quick change in attitude of those who made the journey. I mean, they had just crossed the Red Sea on dry land, then witnessed their enemies getting washed away. After 400 years of slavery, they were free! There were praises for God all around at first, but after a short while, the complaints began to emerge. They were tired of manna and begged Moses for water.
In Exodus 17:2b-4 we read “Moses said to them, “Why are you complaining to me? Why are you testing the Lord?” But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses and asked, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Was it to make us, our children, and our livestock die of thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They’re almost ready to stone me!” God provided water in a miraculous way but a few chapters later they were bowing down to a golden calf.
Bottom line, it didn’t take them long to forget the good and start complaining.
During our week-long vacation, we had some wind each day, but one day in particular, the wind kicked up another notch so we decided to leave. Suddenly our pleasant day became trying and we complained about the sand in our eyes, our hair, and even between our teeth. It was hot and humid and we wanted to leave the beach we had so longed to see for the comfort of our hotel room.
I turned to one of my friends and said “I owe the Israelites an apology.” I’ve never understood how their joy could turn to complaining so quickly, but here we are doing the same thing – after just a couple of hours! The sun and sand were hot, the wind was brutal and all we were toting was a wheeled cart. The Israelites walked that desert for 40 years – day in and day out, crying kids, stubborn animals, heat, sun, wind, and all of that while carrying all their worldly goods.
I’m not saying they were right to complain. But I am saying that brief encounter with a huge expanse of sand helped me be a little less judgmental while examining my own flighty heart that was willing to forget the hours of enjoyment after a few minutes of inconvenience.
Psalm 34:1-4 says “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
How do you react when your expectations are met with challenges? Do you complain about your situation or is His praise on your lips?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!