How I Quit Complaining

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing a variety of ways we can overcome our fears. It’s been so exciting for me to see how you have responded to my posts and how many of you have resonated with what I shared. You have no idea how comforting it is to know that what God has taken me through can offer hope to someone else. This journey has not always been an easy one for me and there are days that I still struggle , but I am better equipped now more than ever to deal with the things that can cause me fear.

However, the next thing we are going to talk about may seem a bit counterintuitive to you. If you will stick with me and put what I suggest into practice I promise you it will yield the results that you are looking for. Fair enough? Great.

Let me begin by sharing a little truth about me. I can be a bit of a complainer.

I am the type of complainer though that does most of the grumbling in my head and only sometimes to the people who are closest to me. Can any of you relate? (I am going to assume that you are not an outward complainer, cause who likes to be around someone who complains all the time, right?)

I can make it seem like I have it all together on the outside but inside I am failing apart feeling things like anger, frustration, impatience and sometimes even bitterness. In reality, I can not only fool you but I can also fool  myself into justifying my inward emotions by comparing myself to others. “I’m not as bad as so and so.” “At least, I didn’t say that or do that.” “I am justified in the way I feel, what struggles does that person really have?”

Oh, let’s face it folks. Our insides are full of some pretty dark stuff. Most of us would be mortified if our true thoughts were placed on a movie screen for the world to see. Me included! Gasp!

But what does complaining have to do with fear? Well, at first glance it may seem like two different issues. But to offer a bit of an explanation let’s go into the Bible to the Book of Exodus. The Book of Exodus is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it is the home of a character that I feel like I relate so well to…Moses. Moses and I have so much in common…with the exception of him being a male and me a female, I wasn’t put in a basket to float down a river only to be picked up by a princess, though I would argue my mother is royalty, and I wasn’t a prince. I didn’t kill anyone and I have not been a shepherd to real sheep. But besides that, we actually have a lot in common. HA!

We both messed up big time and was in need of a Savior, we both felt God calling us to do things that were way beyond what we could possibly do on our own or even what we thought we had capabilities to do, we were both called to speak and felt ill-equipped to do so, and we both were given visions that were bigger than our little minds could fathom. But here’s the really big one, we both made excuses as to why we were the last people on planet earth that should do whatever it was God was calling us to. So, yeah…I get Moses.  If you haven’t read Exodus you totally need to because it’s full of adventure, intrigue, drama and excitement.  This is not a book of the Bible that you sleep through, this one will keep you on your toes.

Exodus is the story of how God used Moses and his brother Aaron to set the Israelites free from 400 years of captivity to lead them into the Promise Land that God had promised to Abraham years and years ago. Where I want us to begin for our purposes today is in Chapter 16. So to fast forward you there here is a quick rendition of what happens: Moses grows into a prince, sees injustice and kills a soldier, flees to another land, marries a native becomes a shepherd (this is a riches to rags story), hears God from a burning bush, gives excuses, finally yields, talks to Pharaoh “Let my people go! ” Pharaoh says no way, God puts 10 plagues on the Egyptian people (frogs and bloody rivers and locusts, oh my!), with the last one killing all the first born children and creating the first “Passover.” Israelites are told to get the heck out of dodge and head to the Promise Land taking the longer route (per God’s instructions), Moses splits the Red Sea, Egyptians die, Israelites cheer! And now here we are wandering in the desert in Exodus 16.

God just accomplished all this amazing stuff, right? The Israelites just witnessed miracle after miracle you would think they would be floating on cloud 9, singing God’s praises until the day they die. But here is what happens instead: (I am going to paraphrase here for brevity purposes)

Israelites to Moses and Aaron:  (in whiny voices) We are so hungry. Why didn’t you bring us any food?  How could you bring us out here just do die from hunger? Waah, waah, waah. We would rather be back in captivity to the Egyptians than die in the dessert.

God to Moses: I’ll rain down bread from heaven to provide food for them. They are to get what they need each day. Let’s see if they follow my instruction. I hope they listen to me.

Moses to the People: Really? You think you are grumbling to us…but you are really grumbling to God. Who are we? Are we your providers? Of course not, God is.

It continues on giving the account of how God provided manna and quail meeting their every need.

So let’s talk about this a bit.

Here are the Isrealites in the midst of the wilderness not seeing any end in site. Not knowing where the “Promise Land” was or how much longer they were going to have to walk to get there. They saw no food along the way and let’s face it, they were getting hungry but in not seeing a way for their hunger to be satisfied they also were afraid. They were afraid they got duped. They were afraid they made a big mistake in following Moses and God. They were afraid their better chances were back in Egypt. And they were afraid their needs were not going to be met.

How many of us fall into that exact category? You have a need… a job, a car, a spouse, finances, a healing, a decision on which way to go…you name it and instead of praying about it you find yourself grumbling in your head and before you know it out your mouth, to anyone that is willing to hear you.  Your fear of lack of provision is real.

But let me suggest to you another way to respond, that Moses helps make known to us in Exodus 16. Instead of joining on the grumbling, he reminded them who they were actually grumbling too…not them (Moses and Aaron), God. He called them out on it, right there in the middle of the desert. And in doing so he reminded them who their provision comes from.

The same thing happened to me.

Sometimes when you ask people to pray for you God gives them insights into the things you are doing to help you get back on track. You see, I was in a rut just a few months back. I live with a heart infection called pericarditis. I have had it for 2 years now and in June I had my second attack in a two month period with severe discomfort, and when I say discomfort I mean pain, in between. I was tired of living in pain every day. Tired of feeling limited. Tired of the challenge of a chronic illness that should have been acute. I felt very justified in how I felt because of all I had already been through. I wasn’t necessarily making this known to anyone in particular. But God knew.

And in my case, my complaining was made known to dear friend (did you know that God tells secrets on you) and I was called out on it. She not only called me out on my complaining but she also shared this verse in Psalm 116.

“I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.” (v.7)

Maybe my mind thinks differently than yours, but my mind went to “what in the world is a sacrificial thank offering and what does it have to do with my complaining.”

So I did what I know do to and I looked up the word sacrifice. Sometimes words that are common to us can become assumed or mundane. When I looked up sacrifice it said this:

” to surrender something as a possession as an offering to God, the act of giving something up, something that you want to keep especially in order to get or to do something else or to help someone.”

Here’s the thing about sacrifices…they hurt. They are typically something we don’t want to give up but the thing that maybe we need to give up in this case it’s giving thanks. Why? Well, to be honest, who feels like giving thanks when you are in the midst of complaining. I certainly don’t. But this verse, compels us to anyway.

What do we give thanks for? Anything really. But you could start with God. Thank Him for who He is. For His sovereignty (2 Sam 7:28). For being on His throne (Rev 4). For listening to your prayers (Num 20:16). For knowing the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). For being your provider (Gen 22:14). For knowing what you need when you need it. (Matt 6:25-26)

Because when I started to do just this thing…my entire perspective changed. Not only did I stop grumbling, I got that perfect peace back again that reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7. And once I really started seeking God for my condition, He showed me all kinds of riches in His word about long-suffering and rejoicing in my circumstances. So instead of being ill and focusing on me, I suddenly started experiencing joy and only seeing Him.

I don’t know what your fear is that you are trying to overcome, but I do know, your Father in Heaven knows your every need. So, maybe you can start today by making a sacrificial thank-offering to God by calling on Him to meet you at your fear and in it’s place you’ll start to experience peace, joy and more of Him.

What else can you give thanks for besides the things that I mentioned above?

6 Ways You Can Overcome Fear with Peace

“You could bleed out.”

Those words rung in my ears as I sat in my ENT doctor’s office.  It was February of 2011. My doctor  was telling me how the carotid body tumor in my neck needed to be removed and the reality of it’s removal could be, well…death.

About 7 months before that my husband and I, with our 10 month old son in tow,  moved from Hamilton, OH to his hometown of Cullman, AL to start a local church…or so we thought. It didn’t take long for us to realize, God had other plans. In fact, the church launched in August and by November we had decided to shut it down in order to seek God for what His plan was…we had decided we must have missed that along the way, because what we thought would be a successful ministry opportunity turned into a closed door. I had blogged about our experience, and you can read more about that here.

This moment in the doctor’s office was pivotal for me. You see up until this point I would not have consider myself a very anxious person. I didn’t think I had a lot of fear and for the most part, would have been willing to try new things…well, most new things.

But at this moment, of seeing the prospect of death, well, this was a game changer. From this point forward, nothing in my life was the same.

And from it you are going to learn what I did, 6 ways to overcome fear with peace, that you can use moment by moment, as you struggle through the very thing  you fear the most, even death.

But before we go there, let’s travel back in time a bit to early 2011 where  God was clarifying a vision for what I thought was for Chris to follow through on to help unify our community by bringing together local non-profits in order to meet needs in our community. I felt with everything in me God had given us that vision and I was convinced that Chris was the one who was supposed to carry it out. He was from Cullman, he knows people, he could lead a ministry like that.

And I was convinced I was the very last person on earth that could lead that vision. I wasn’t from Cullman. I am a Yankee, in a southern town, and at that time knew no one. I am also a woman, in a very conservative place where most leadership positions are held by men. Did I mention I am also a Yankee. I am the last person to be leading a ministry to meet the needs of the poor in a way that brings unity to a community that I did no grow up in.

But, God had another plan. Those words, “You could bleed out”  were the first of what started me on a path of learning about fear.

Fear like I have never felt before.

Fear that paralyzed me and gave me terrors in the night.

Never in my life did I ever experience the feelings of fear that I had days and weeks after those words were spoken over my life.

Over the next months we traveled from doctor to doctor praying we could find the one who could conduct the surgery on my tumor . And while we prayed and sought him for direction, I started to gain perspective. I started to hear Him through my scripture readings and found Phillipians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving bring your requests to God. And the God of peace will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.”

Those words were like salve on my anxious mind and were used many nights to usher me to sleep.

Because the reality is my life had to keep going on, regardless of the fear.

It was April  when we finally located an ENT with more experience with my very rare tumor than any other doctor and it would be months before the surgery was scheduled. So I do what any person who wants to remain in control of their life does, I went on doing my day job and pursuing what I thought God had for me as a calling. At that point I believed with everything in me I was called to write and speak to women.

In May of that year, I went to a Christian Writer’s Conference in Colorado (talk about getting over fears) where I was mildly successful in engaging a possible agent in a book idea I had pitched and making some great connections with publishers and editors in the Christian Writing Market. This was HUGE for me as God was redeeming a story that was laden with death words like “you’ll never be a writer” from a college professor and “you might as well forget about writing professionally, no one would ever publish what you write” from the same man. God had already been re-writing that story for me and the Writer’s Conference was just  another way He was taking what the enemy meant for harm (remember kill, steal, destroy from last week) and offering me a life of abundance.

So I truly thought…this was my calling. This is what God is going to have me do…and that other vision…well that was for Chris.

But Chris had other thoughts.  When I  originally shared that vision for him in the early parts of 2010, his response was very realistic.  He knew this community better than I.

He said, “Dawn, as much as that is a great vision to unite the community by helping meet needs of the poor, that’s going to take a lot of collaboration on the parts of the churches and other organizations. They are very divided here. So the only way that something like that is going to happen is if something big blows through this town and shakes it up.”

We would never consider Chris a prophet…but it was literally only a few months later in April of 2011 that something DID blow through our town and shake it up. In fact, on April 27, 2011 we sat huddled in a basement of a friends house as a F4 Tornado tore up our town.  You can see video coverage of that tornado, here.

God shook up a lot that day. Our town. Our hearts. Our community served each other like never before.

It was beautiful.

Are you catching all of this. A tumor. Massive anxiety. A trip to a writer’s conference. A tornado. All before the surgery in June.

He was putting me in an uncomfortable  and vulnerable place, wrapped up in very uncomfortable experiences so I would have no choice but to trust Him and only Him. I had to surrender all my control and believe He knew what was best for me.

It was during this time that I learned what it meant to have peace that guards your heart.

A peace that surpasses all understanding.

A peace that speaks to you and says, “I am not finished with you yet.”

And you cling to it with everything that you have because you want it to be true. Because surgeries are scary. And no one knows when they go in, if they are coming back out.

Peace. It is what I clung to while I walked through during the scariest part of my life. So let me walk you through 6 ways you can overcoming fear and find this peace as well.

  1. Don’t be anxious about anything…yeah, like that is easy. I know this is the verse part of the verse, but really…I don’t think God thought we could do this on our own which is why He followed it up with “with thanksgiving, prayer and petition.”  I think these are the antidote to not being anxious to anything. However, you’ll soon see, these are wise words, encouraging words, and words we want to strive to live by.
  2. Give thanks to God – Who really wants to give thanks when they are dealing with anxiety and worry? I think sometimes I actually like being worried. It gives me something to think about. Something to talk to my friends and seek their opinion on. It can be a topic of conversation at lunch. But God has a completely different idea of what I am supposed to do with that worry and it does not include any of the things I just mentioned. Darn. Instead, he wants us to change our perspective.  The act of thanking is challenging but what He wants us to get our thoughts off of us on and on to Him. So what do we thank him for? We thank Him for Him being God. He’s in charge. He is in control.
  3. Pray and Petition, bring your requests – Again, this is taking the mindset off of us. Let’s face it. If we could fix the problem, figure out the issue, or in my case…remove and cure my own tumor, I would not be worrying. I need a God that is bigger than my stuff to run to when I get to the end of myself. I honestly believe He allows us to get here. To the end of ourselves… so we’ll pray, petition, and bring Him our requests. And when we do…that’s when the blessing happens.
  4. He is the God of Peace…Did you know this about our God? The bible says, He is the God of Peace. Not the God of Anxiousness. Not the God of Stress. Not the God of Worry or Ulcers or Nail Biting. But the God of Peace. So as you pray, keep this in mind. You are praying to the God who is Peace. Do you feel like you want to go back to  number 2 and thank Him?
  5. He surpasses all understanding – Say that to yourself again. Surpasses ALL understanding. Folks…hear me out on this. We are not God. We do not have the ability to think as He does. The word says, “His ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts.” We are human. He is our Creator. There are just some things we are not going to understand. And this may be the most important thing I share with you on this entire post…you ready for it.  When I surrendered ALL understanding to Him. When I finally said, “You know what God I am never going to get my head around all of this.” that is when the peace came. Flooding in like a river. It was sweet, it was rich, and it was what I needed more than anything else, except this…
  6. Guard your heart in Christ Jesus -Because that’s what peace does. It guards your heart so as you repeat this verse over and over to yourself moment by moment, day by day, week after week and still for me 5 years later…you start to realize that the worry and the anxiety, that’s all you. Giving thanks, prayer and petition and surrendering all understanding, that’s God. He is the guardian of our hearts. Oh, dear one, let Him guard your heart today, do not try to block Him by filling your day with worry and stress.

So that’s it. The 6 ways to overcome fear, all laid out clear as day in scripture for you and me. When I uncovered this secret, I learned what it took to overcome fear. And now you can too.

Now that you know the secret to overcoming fear with peace, which of these 6 ways to overcome fear do you think will be the hardest for you to do and how can you implement them in your daily life? Take a moment and then comment below. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!