My father had a phrase held in reserve for whenever my whining became unbearable, “Stop bellyaching!” As a child, I had a distorted perspective on life. Trivial disciplines such as bedtime and healthy eating seemed cruel and unusual punishments. The nation of Israel behaved immaturely too; they became bored by God’s blessings and complained.
Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna. (Num. 11:4-6)
Free fish sounds good, but those vegetables, they sound like a recipe for bellyache. If you ate them together, you would have something to complain about. Why crave cucumbers? They give me gas! What the people really wanted was a menu change, a nice bit of meat. They had become bored.
Boredom goes hand-in-hand with ungratefulness. Israel had left Egypt more than a year earlier. God had faithfully rained manna on their camp each night—a supernatural food supply. It tasted good too, like cakes baked in oil.1 Later writers called it “the bread of angels.”2 Nonetheless, after a year, the people had lost perspective on God’s care for them. Manna in a barren wilderness was still miraculous, but the boredom in their bellies spoke louder.
In how many ways does God care for us while we take it for granted? The list might include health, a steady job, safety on the daily commute, family and friends, answers to prayers, and many more. The spectacular ones find a place in our journals; we easily overlook the faithful provision of that daily bread we ask for.
Not only did Israel forget God’s faithful and miraculous provision, they also had a lapse in their logic. After all, the only place to purchase such produce was Egypt; the only people who would get free fish were slaves. It takes considerable deception to think that the harvest of slavery is better than the simple provision of God.
Our immature and fleshly responses to boredom turn us away from the path to God’s promised land for us. The journeys that God has us on include dull stretches as well as stretching challenges. Learning to recognize, receive, and rejoice in God’s protection and provision along the way is essential for our spiritual maturity.