Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.
It’s a catchy hymn with lyrics I’ve tried to keep pinned to my mind throughout my life. It’s important never to forget what God has done. Yet in a fallen world, it’s so easy to slip into the habit of neglecting God’s goodness in favor of discontentment. Pretty often I find myself considering how things could be better and lamenting that they’re not that way.
This feeling hits pretty close to home lately for me. Having been married for only a couple months, I’ve learned how difficult it is to find an apartment or house to call my own. As options continue to fall through, my wife and I are staying with her parents. It can be tough to live in a home in which we aren’t the heads of the household. It doesn’t feel much different than growing up in my parents’ home—except that we’re not kids anymore.
It’s not without perks, though. We get to pay less rent than we would for an apartment, enjoy time with our family, and have our dinners with them. We try to focus on these blessings when we’re frustrated about our situation.
Still, we work daily to find our own home. We’re constantly searching for apartments and houses, talking with our realtor, touring homes, and doing all we have to do necessary to move. It’s a small price to pay for our goal.
Yet sometimes I fear that when we find our own place to live, we’ll forget how much we looked forward to this situation. When the chores and bills start piling up, I don’t want to find myself saying, “It’s too hard living here. At least we had our meals made and our laundry done at Mom and Dad’s house.”
We tend to ignore God’s faithfulness to us or pass it off as a normalcy to which we’re entitled. But our loving Father deserves so much more. If we stopped to take inventory of all He’s provided, we’d be blown away by His grace.
Sound familiar? The Israelites went through a similar moving process—except theirs lasted for 40 years! God miraculously delivered them from the hand of the mighty Egyptians that had enslaved them for 400 years. He split the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to cross on dry land before crushing the pursuing Egyptians in the water. God then led His people to their beautiful Promised Land flowing with milk and honey to dwell happily for the rest of their days. You’d think that after this underdog miracle and glorious promise the Israelites would have nothing but praise to God for their deliverance, right?
Nope. Instead, 12 Israelite spies checked out the land, and 10 of them gave it a thumbs down because the inhabitants were stronger than they were. Seriously? Didn’t God just deliver them from the most powerful nation on Earth? In Exodus 15, Moses led the Israelites in songs of praise before the Lord, but one chapter later, they were already complaining ungratefully, saying, “‘Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lᴏʀᴅ in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (Ex. 16:3). We can see how quickly we forget God’s faithfulness in the Israelites’ example.
God did not turn His back on His people. He did another miracle, causing manna to fall from the sky in the morning. It was a special gift from God, something the Israelites had never seen before and could not complain about. Moses wrote that “the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Ex. 16:31). Sounds delicious!
Even this wasn’t enough. Their satisfaction didn’t last long before they complained to Moses in Numbers 11:4–6, “‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’”
“Nothing at all except this manna?” God’s miracle wasn’t good enough? But God remained slow to anger and sent them quail in the evenings so they could eat meat. They scoffed at His miracle, but His faithfulness remained.
It’s easy to be upset with or disappointed in the Israelites. But when I look at myself, I can’t say with any certainty that I would have been any more faithful. That’s the reality of the grumbling Israelites: It’s human nature! We tend to ignore God’s faithfulness to us or pass it off as a normalcy to which we’re entitled. But our loving Father deserves so much more. If we stopped to take inventory of all He’s provided, we’d be blown away by His grace. He took the Israelites out of captivity, and in the same miraculous fashion, He’s offered each of us freedom from the captivity of our sin. When we remember to meditate on this truth, there really is no time to complain about our struggles. Because of His grace, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) and “we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (v. 9).
My wife and I struggle with our situation since we don’t know how long our extended stay will be, but we can take comfort knowing it’s highly unlikely it’ll last 40 years. Yet in our narrow perspective, we tend to grow weary when we don’t see an end in sight. We fear more easily than we should. We want to complain about where we are rather than trusting God for where we’ve been and where we’ll be.
This moment of wandering as we search for a home is an opportunity for my wife and me to trust God’s deliverance beyond what we can see immediately. And when He provides a home for us, we’ll have another opportunity to trust Him as we face the struggle of new challenges in a new home. But we’ll be sure not to give in to the tendency to complain as we remember what the Lord has done for us, and we’ll take the opportunity to count our blessings, one by one.