By BRUCE GREEN
Teaching Minister at 10th Street Church of Christ
Years ago, I was up on the roof doing some repair work that needed to be done courtesy of a recent storm. When I got up there and started working, I could see over the fence in our back yard into our neighbor’s yard. Of course, I could also be seen, and looking at me and barking loudly, was their dog. Apparently, he didn’t have anything scheduled for the day because he remained there barking at me the entire time I was up there.
It made me think about the “barkers” in life — those people who are always yelping about this or that. It’s not that there’s a particular issue that has them worked up, being worked up just seems to be their default setting. (As someone observed, “They’re not happy unless they’re unhappy.”) They find fault like there’s a reward for it. While I’m sure there are some personality types that are more susceptible to this and certain families where this occurs more readily, I tend to look at it as a faith issue.
You remember that the nation of Israel spent a good deal of its time in the wilderness barking at God. He was going to let them die in the desert (Exodus 14); the people didn’t have enough to drink (Exodus 17), eat (Exodus 16), the right kind of food (Numbers 11), etc. It became apparent that it really wasn’t any of these things that had the Israelites troubled — they were just worked up and looking for something to vent about. And this was all due to their lack of trust that God would take care of them (Psalm 78:12ff,22,32).
Paul will use this wilderness backdrop when he tells the Christians at Philippi to “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” (2:14). It’s a temptation for us to try to rationalize away this command by pointing out that Paul didn’t have any children, he wasn’t married, he didn’t have a real job, and therefore knew little or nothing of “real” life. Of course, he doesn’t think we should complain. But the truth is, Paul knew plenty about real life (see 2 Corinthians 11:23) — probably more than most of us. And if we really do believe that God is working in our lives (2:13 of Philippians), then it should be reflected in our attitude and behavior. Ranting and raving about the status quo is simply a confession of lack of confidence in our Father. It was for the Israelites, and it is for us.
The biblical alternative to barking at God is praising Him. It is to rejoice in Him knowing that He is greater than any of our circumstances (Philippians 4:4-7). If Paul could do this under house arrest unsure of life or death (1:20), then surely, we can do it in our circumstances.
Instead of finding fault, let’s find our faith.