How Complaining Almost Robbed Me of My Courage

  • Kristi Woods
How Complaining Almost Robbed Me of My Courage

What if life plays out differently than we planned? Do we give praise during the good times and grumbles amid the bad?

What if an opportunity arises to relocate somewhere new, but it seems more of a burden than a gift? Do we stop, drop, and roll right into prayer, asking for God’s will even if every inch of our flesh screeches for a solid “no” answer? Do we dare?

How do we muster courage amid the unwanted and unexpected? In 2013 I faced that reality.

In over 20 years of marriage to my husband, Tony, I often and adamantly championed the phrase, “I will never move there.”

My first visit to his home state of Oklahoma landed me on the backseat of a motorcycle, motoring down Route 66 and heading straight toward one of my biggest fears – an F4 tornado. On that ride, rising water tickled the motorcycle’s foot pegs. Pebble-sized hail attacked and cracked my helmet’s face shield. Seconds after we found shelter under a porch roof, the storm began spitting tennis-ball sized hail. I’m pretty certain those “tennis balls” would have done more than crack a face shield. Yikes!

We stood safe, but destruction swirled at dizzying and horrifying speeds just five minutes ahead. What a welcome. Move to Oklahoma? No thank you.

But after his retirement from the US Navy, my husband approached me one evening and said, “I’ve been given an interview in Oklahoma.”

Every ounce of oxygen rushed straight out of my lungs. I stared at my husband then the wall. Words refused to come.

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"Whom would I choose to serve?"

"Whom would I choose to serve?"

The situation flashed as a “rubber meets the road” moment of faith. Whom would I choose to serve?

I toyed with offering a swift, "Not on your life, buddy." Instead, I remained quiet—all while my insides flip flopped.

The last action I wanted to participate in at that moment, aside from moving to Oklahoma, was praying. After all, God might offer a squirm-worthy answer. As a Christian, however, I realized the first thing I needed to do was pray—even if a less-than-desirable answer emerged.

After all, didn’t God assure Joshua (Joshua 1) he knew the plans he had for him? If we are made in God’s likeness and image (Gen. 1:27), like Joshua, shouldn’t our Father be at the helm of our plans as well?

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Starting With Prayer

Starting With Prayer

I struggled with a selfish undercurrent demanding its own way, but finally I eked out an answer concerning the unexpected and unwanted. “Okay, I’ll pray about it.” And with that, my shoulders sank.

Tony nodded.

My husband and I spent the following days in prayer. We both sensed peace. It had always been our cue to move forward, although I wasn’t too joyous about it on this occasion.

Tony received the job offer, and a few weeks later, we pulled up the welcome mat in North Carolina and moved to Oklahoma.

As a military family, relocating became our motto. We knew the routine. For the most part, the transitions flowed well. But not this time.

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"Complaining hit the airwaves."

"Complaining hit the airwaves."

The move itself proved uneventful—thank the Lord. But when it came to our teenagers adjusting to their new surroundings, an unexpected and powerful squall overtook us. Complaining hit the airwaves. Then discontentment joined in. I tried hard to keep the grumbling at arm’s length, but I found myself chanting its cheer as well, all while eyeballing our contented life back in North Carolina.

The kids linked arms with loneliness. They felt out of place and grew tired of attempting to adjust to their new school—voicing often that we should simply go back. Discouragement took hold. Meanwhile, I looked out on the landscape of our quiet neighborhood. Most neighbors remained nameless and faceless months past our move-in date. I grew lonely as well.

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"Shouldn’t things flow smoothly when in the midst of God’s will?"

"Shouldn’t things flow smoothly when in the midst of God’s will?"

Our family resembled an injured body with shoulders, elbows, and knees knocked plumb out of joint. This state of upheaval lasted for months—far too many months.

The more the kids swirled in their tumultuous world, the more I wondered if and how we missed God. Shouldn’t things flow smoothly when in the midst of God’s will? Peace rose when we prayed. We sensed the Lord guiding us to Oklahoma, so why this tremendous, never-ending storm?

One giant order of peace, please!

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Growing Complaints and Wavering Faith

Growing Complaints and Wavering Faith

I shared our struggle with a few folks. Some of them reassured me that we should pluck our kids out of school – that we should back-off instead of plowing through. I mulled around their ideas as we continued living life in the unwanted and unexpected.

One day I sensed the Lord setting my eyes on the Israelites. The iron fist of Pharaoh held them in bondage, but God assured an escape. He promised to lead them to a land they’d love, a place flowing with milk and honey. The Israelites believed and followed God, but their journey grew rocky. Complaints grew, discontentment too. Belief waivered.

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"Wouldn’t it be better for us to return...?"

"Wouldn’t it be better for us to return...?"

An 11-day journey slid into a 40-year trudge through the desert. The Israelites waivered between trust and fear, focusing on the future and longing for time’s past.

“Why does Yahweh bring us to this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be captured or killed! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return into Egypt?Numbers 14:3 WEB

I often wondered why the Israelites couldn’t simply “pull it together” and why they waivered in trust of God. I don’t wonder that any more.

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"Oklahoma hadn’t landed me in a bad place. My refusal to trust God had."

"Oklahoma hadn’t landed me in a bad place. My refusal to trust God had."

As I pondered the plight of the Israelites, the Lord shifted my focus to my own family’s journey from North Carolina to Oklahoma. I saw myself walking to the tune of the Israelite’s beat. Grumbling, complaining, concern for the kids, and eyeing life back in North Carolina sprinted into view and set me straight into the struggles of Numbers 14:3.

I sucked in a deep breath. Oklahoma hadn’t landed me in a bad place. My refusal to trust God had. Ouch!

The realization concerned me. It humbled me. It even scared me.

My Father has always been faithful. My list of scenarios that testify to it runs long. Why doubt that love?

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Trading Complaints for Gratitude

Trading Complaints for Gratitude

I resolved to cut the chains of complaining. This took time and effort because it wasn’t a quick snip. It took courage to rise from the comfortable. And it required intentional action on my part, especially when I didn’t feel the courage to change.

The darkness of complaining stands opposite to gratitude’s light. But thankfulness cuts through that darkness. Our faithful Father included the language of thankfulness in His Word years ago, and it’s still good today.

Praise Yahweh! Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, For his lovingkindness endures forever.” Psalm 106:1 WEB

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"Thank you, Lord, for bringing us to Oklahoma."

"Thank you, Lord, for bringing us to Oklahoma."

When I began intentionally offering thanks, Oklahoma sunrises peeking over the horizon began prompting gratitude. The swaying prairies, flowers, and birds did too. God’s creation, even in Oklahoma, displayed beautifully! And I often uttered an additional bit of thanks, a sentence that just weeks earlier seemed impossible to utter: Thank you, Lord, for bringing us to Oklahoma.

Sometimes finding gratitude proves difficult, but it’s necessary as we take courage and follow our loving God out of the dry, barren wasteland that complaining creates.

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"My Father remains faithful, supplying His children with courage..."

"My Father remains faithful, supplying His children with courage..."

My husband and I chose to encourage our kids through, not away from, the challenges they faced. It wasn’t easy, but then again, neither was the journey of the Israelites. All three kids remained in school. Teachers, counselors, coaches, and administrators—strong women and men of God—came alongside them. Those beautiful teenagers gathered courage and worked their way through the challenges.

As for our quiet, keep-to-yourself neighborhood – I quit wondering why others weren’t reaching out to us, and began intentionally seeking them instead. Now, whenever a new neighbor moves into the subdivision, my husband and I deliver a plate of cookies with our “family” business card attached. Sometimes we wave or chat with folks while walking. During the Christmas season we gift a bag of fruit, and this fall we plan to host a neighborhood cookout.

As tornado sirens blare and clouds swirl, life in Oklahoma stands right. My Father remains faithful, supplying His children with courage to crush complaining amid the unwanted and unexpected—always. 

 

Kristi Woods, writer and speaker, is passionate about women walking deeper with God. She writes regularly and offers faith-building tools at www.KristiWoods.net. She contributes monthly at iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com and is published in three Chicken Soup for the Soulpublications. Kristi, her husband, and their three children survived a nomadic, military lifestyle, and have set roots in Oklahoma. Connect with Kristi here: Facebook and Pinterest.

This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.

Check back here throughout August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.

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