Grumbling and Paraclesis
We all like a good grumble don’t we?
You’ve had a bad day. You’re hungry. A meeting didn’t go well. You don’t like you job. You don’t like a colleague. You’ve had a run-in with a neighbour. You’re tired. The trains are delayed. The weather’s not great. You’re fed up with your wardrobe.
And so we grumble.
To ourselves. To a friend. To anyone who will listen.
On the one hand, grumbling is a very human response to a lot of what life throws at us. But on the other hand, I wonder if our grumbling reveals some degree of hard-heartedness towards God. Possibly, a sub-conscious (or not so sub-conscious) blaming of God. Maybe an anger directed towards God…an ungratefulness of God’s provision…a thanklessness…a refusal to humble ourselves before our Heavenly Father and acknowledge our need for his help and mercy.
And just so you know, this isn’t a uniquely twenty-first century problem.
Read Exodus 16 and 17 to remind yourselves of how the Israelites grumbled.
‘We’re hungry’. ‘We’re thirsty’. ‘We wish we were still in slavery in Egypt.’
Really. Things are so bad that you wish you were still under Pharaoh’s cruel, tyrannical, oppressive, enslaving rule?
Yes, grumbling is a human response. Yes, grumbling can seem therapeutic. But let’s be honest….grumbling can reveal the state of our heart too.
And you know what, this links to one more aspect of paraclesis…of coming alongside.
Grab a bible and turn to Hebrews 3.
The writer has just reminded his readers of their ancestors in the wilderness (Exodus 16 -17). And then he says (vv12-13),
“See to it, brothers (and sisters), that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Do you hear what he’s saying?
Grumbling can be a sign of a heart that is turned from God. And if left unchecked can carry on hardening your heart. And it’s our responsibility, to encourage (paraclesis) each other.
How do we do that?
I think….we listen, we hear another’s burdens and troubles and grumbles….but we gently remind of all that we do have in God…of our rescue, our redemption, our adoption; of our Heavenly Father’s provision and blessing and promises; and of the true nature of being God’s children….how actually, life is not all about us, and how nowhere does God promise an easy, stress-free life. We do the work of tending to each other’s hearts.
This type of paraclesis is not always easy…but it is necessary.