Whining and Throwing Tantrums

I was in crisis.

Days before the start of the new school year, my daughter complained that her throat hurt, and then there was the fever, and the vomiting.  I wanted God to heal her overnight, pronto, ASAP, immediately, snap-to-it—Amen!

He didn’t.

‘Twas the night before school started and all through the house,
A fever was stirring–that dreaded louse.
The backpacks were placed on the counter with care
In hopes that the school year soon would be there.

The girls were all tucked in, warm in their beds
With dreams of pencils and crayons in their heads.
Except for one daughter whose throat hurt a lot
And whose forehead and body and feet were too hot.

So I began to throw a “holy tantrum,” which is anything but holy.  It involves a little bit of stomping, some harumphing, and a whole lot of whining.

“Lord, seriously?  Why is she going to miss the first days of school?   Now I have to take her to the doctor and get a Strep test on an already busy day.  She hates the antibiotic and always spits it out  . . .whine, whine, whine, whine, whine.”

Yes, it’s my go-to flesh reaction to life’s annoyances and there I was once again at 5 a.m. throwing a tantrum.

And I threw another tantrum when, after a doctor’s appointment, a visit to the pharmacist, and a fight with my daughter over the antibiotic, my husband noticed that my toddler had hurt her ear.  “She needs to go to the doctor.”

My fatigue was moving around my soul like a spotlight, ushering the weakest and ugliest cast members of my heart onto the stage for all to see.

I whined to myself: “I was just at the doctor’s.  This is not the week to move into the medical office building.  Why couldn’t we have noticed this the day before, God?  Don’t You understand the power of multi-tasking and appropriate calendar management?”

Of course it’s no surprise that when I myself began to struggle when swallowing, I whined yet again.

This week has been one topsy-turvy event after another.  Nothing going as planned.  No day’s schedule left untouched.  No moment when we are all well.

But when you’ve whined for days to God . . . eventually you grow quiet.  You’ve plead your case.  There’s a moment when you’ve said all you had to say and you expect God to answer for Himself.

He prompted my heart:

Is it really worth all this, Heather?  When she’s 40 years old, will Lauren’s life be destroyed because she missed the first few days of first grade?

Is it really so terrible if your days don’t go as expected?  Aren’t I always in control?

What about the moms whose children are chronically ill? You are whining over Strep throat.  Some moms cry in the night over cancer.

You are sick in the short-term.  For a few days, it’s hard to care for your family, but a few doses of antibiotics will restore you.  What about the moms who face chemo treatments week after week, or who have MS or fibromyalgia and endure chronic pain and fatigue? 

When I declare “It’s dinner time,” and my kids are in the middle of a game or I turn off the TV so they can finish homework or practice piano, sometimes my children whine. (I wonder where they get that from!)  It’s one of my mom-speeches, quoting at them “do everything without complaining and arguing” (Phil. 2:14 NLT).

Don’t just obey; obey with a cheerful heart.  Trust your mom.  Be grateful for what you have and compassionate for those who have not.

Can’t God say the same to me?

Multiple trips to the doctor’s office?  Convincing children to take yucky pink medicine?  Becoming a “frequent flyer” at the pharmacy counter?  Trading in productivity and accomplishment for a cup of hot tea and oatmeal that feels too thick to swallow?

It all may seem like a crisis in the moment, and maybe we deal with our burdens begrudgingly.

But God is far more interested in our heart condition than in the accomplishments of our day or the success of our plans.

Are you obeying with the right attitude—without grumbling about it? (Philippians 2:14)
Are you not just a giver, but a cheerful one? (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Are you doing more than enduring; are you rejoicing in all things?  (Philippians 4:4)
Are you going through the motions of loving others, or are you really loving them?  (Romans 12:9)

This is God’s concern.  We can do what He asks of us and still get it all wrong.  We can take care of our families and work hard at our jobs and tend to every ministry need and still miss it completely.

He wants us to follow, serve, and obey with a trusting, cheerful, peaceful, loving, rejoicing heart.  He wants us to have a heart like His.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

One Week Without a Voice: Lesson One

I woke up last Tuesday, my throat ablaze with scratchy, swollen soreness, and when I opened my mouth to respond to breakfast requests from my kids–there was nothing but squeaky attempts at language.  I pushed out the word, “Breakfast?” and then handed around the cereal bowls as requested.  Thus ended our morning conversation.

This was a problem.  Having only finished one night of our five-night long Vacation Bible School, I had a week of speaking and singing ahead of me.  A week of object lessons and praise songs. A week of yelling out our Bible point for each night and a week of rallying excitement among the kids.

And no voice.

I gargled and drank tea.  I used throat spray and became a chain sucker of cough drops.  I drank enough water to float away and faithfully popped vitamins every night.

But my chief strategy became rest.  All day, every day I didn’t speak.  If necessary, I whispered, but mostly I was a silent member of my household.

A week as one of the voiceless got me thinking about what we say and how we say it, how our words reflect our heart, how we’re called to be listeners, and more.

Lesson One: What I Say Is Who I Am

By the end of each hushed day last week, I stepped onto the stage at church and spoke the first full-voiced words in about 24 hours.  “Welcome to VBS!  We’re so glad you’re here tonight . . . ”  My only normal vocalizations each day were lessons about God’s Word to children.

That week reminded me of the story about a woman who sought closeness to God, so she joined a convent and took a vow of silence.  One day each year, each woman was allowed to speak just two words to the Mother Superior.  After one year, the woman stood in the long line and spoke just two words when it was her turn:  “Bed hard.”  A year later, she stood in line again to say, “Food bad.”  The third time around, she stood before the Mother Superior to say, “I quit.”

“I’m not surprised,” said the Mother Superior.  “You’ve been complaining since you got here.”

I wonder, at the end of a normal day when my voice is unrestricted and I can chatter on at will, what is it that I’ve been talking about?

Complaining and whining?

Criticizing others?


Correcting my kids?

Waxing eloquent about myself?

Praising God and sharing from His Word?

Encouraging others?

What about you?  How do you put your voice to use each day?

Out of necessity last week, the only way I could really use my voice was talking about God.  The moment that Vacation Bible School ended and I climbed into the minivan with my kids, I returned to a life of silent listening and, if necessary, whispered prompts to get others talking.

Words have power and impact.  They can build others up, fill their spirit with strength and courage, and point them to Christ.  But words can also rip people apart, tearing their spirits down to tiny shreds of defeated nothingness.  Indeed, “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21 ESV).

With such weaponry in our arsenal, with such power housed in a simple voicebox, you would think we’d be more cautious about what we say.  Like the nun who could only speak two words a year or like me who had 30 minutes to talk in a 24-hour day, we could prioritize and speak only what is necessary, true, and God-honoring.

But I’m not always so careful.  I sometimes forget that my voice is a precious gift and that my words have impact.  It’s too easy just to babble off whatever pops into my head sans filter.

The real issue here isn’t just speaking without thinking.  It’s that ultimately, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b ESV).

Essentially, at the end of the day if we’ve used most of our words to gossip—then we’re a gossip.

And if we’ve spent most of our day complaining—then we’re a complainer.

If our conversation has mostly been about criticizing other people—then we’re negative.

If we’ve monopolized conversations with our own opinions and thoughts—then we’re selfish and self-focused.

The words we toss about with little thought and no constraint are peeling back the covers of our heart and showing what’s really in there.  And sometimes it’s ugly.

That means we don’t just need to filter our words; we need God to do some heart changing, too.

This isn’t advocacy for fake living, pasting cardboard smiles onto our faces and pretending everything is fine when it’s not.

Even with God, we can speak with honesty.  Job, steeped in tragedy, said, “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11).  David, Asaph and other Psalmists clearly felt freedom to express hurt and anger to God.

Yet, we can survey the overall tone and content of our daily speech and discover the tone and content of our heart.  Then, we can let God change us from the inside out.

If you could only talk for 30 minutes today, what would you use that time to say?

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Shelter in the Storm, Part II

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, NASB)

With my husband’s Saturday chores and projects for the day finished, I spotted my opportunity.  I could leave my home and run errands by myself.  Yes, that meant no children along for the ride or little people to shuttle in and out of stores.  No behavior to monitor or lectures to be given.  No looking at products we don’t need costing money I don’t have and saying  “no” to children who declare they need them.  No driving in the car and reaching over to turn the music down or off every 30 seconds so I could answer a question or solve a sibling dispute.

I could feel the tension in me, in my voice, in my reactions, in the speed at which I was cleaning the house and grumbling (Didn’t I just clean this?  How many times do I put these things away every day?  Why are there shoes on the floor again and why are they in the middle of the floor? Who walks 4 feet into a room and then decides to take their shoes off?).  A birthday party had brought new, exciting, wonderful gifts into our home, gifts that were now being played with all over the floor that I had just cleared of toys the night before.

It had been too long since I had left my home by myself.  And so, off I went, list in hand showing what I needed to accomplish.  I went to the first store, used my coupon, bought my necessary items, checked it off my list.  So far, so good.  A little overcast, a slight misting in the air, the wind blowing my hair in my eyes periodically, but nothing too troubling.

Back in my car, I flicked on the radio to my favorite classical music station.  Sometimes without children along, I enjoy music without words.  Expecting Bach, I heard instead hillbilly rock ( I think).  Whatever it was, it was thoroughly un-relaxing.  Confused, I scanned through the stations.  My music had disappeared and been replaced with what the DJ announced was the “best music in the universe.”  I was doubtful.  I was also now whining and fretting.  What happened to my radio station?  Was it an interruption caused by the stormy weather on the way or was this a long-term travesty not just ruining my day, but ruining my future, as well?

On I drove.  My spirit rumbling, grumbling, complaining and whining now.  I spotted a McDonald’s and was inspired.  A large sweet tea for $1 would certainly improve my day and so I ordered and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Twelve minutes later, they had finally served the person in front of me and I pulled up to the window where a cheerfully apologetic woman handed me the drink that took all of 10 seconds to fix and said, “Sorry for your wait.”  I smiled weakly and drove away.

The rumbling in my spirit grew.  My wonderful, precious, much-anticipated time out was not refreshing or relaxing or productive.  It was ruined by inconvenience and disappointment and impatience.

The sky seemed darker now than before.  On the radio, the DJ for the mystery music station announced that in Virginia they were calling for severe thunderstorms, hail and maybe tornadoes.  She didn’t say when any of this might happen.  She didn’t even tell me where in Virginia this might occur.  So, this new radio station has yucky music and unhelpful DJ’s.  Just great.

I whined some more.

And then I felt it, a heaviness on my heart, a deep impression that I could not shake—-it was not okay for me to drive across the bridge and finish my errands across the river.  I needed to stay in my tiny town, do what I could here and go home.  I grumbled to God that this was my only opportunity to complete these errands unaccompanied, that my upcoming weekly calendar was covered from edge-to-edge with things I needed to do and places I needed to be.  If I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t get to go all week.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

I complained.  The sky was deep gray now.  Turning my car around, I drove away from the bridge and finished the errands I could do in town–obeying, but not cheerfully obeying.

Arriving home, I fixed dinner and watched my daughters play with my husband.  The power flickered off and on.  It rained.

Then, the news came in, pictures, videos, Facebook posts, phone calls to see if we were okay.   A tornado had touched down just miles away, hitting the connecting road to our street.  The middle school had an entire wing destroyed.  Frames of homes had been lifted up and mangled around trees.  Our hospital’s emergency room was crowded to overflowing and people were sent across the river for care.  People were missing, a few dead.  The only hotel in town filled up with families now homeless.

The book of Job describes a man battling his own life-storm–the death of his children and servants, the loss of his livestock and livelihood, and the personal pain of boils on his skin. For almost the entire book, Job and his “friends” talk and talk and talk some more about God.  And then God shows up in person: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, NASB).  God spoke to Job through the tornado—perhaps knowing that was the only to make these “talking heads” be quiet.  Sometimes God needs to use a raging storm to get our attention and to stop our incessant personal noise and natural bent toward self-centeredness.

After God spoke, Job did the wisest thing a man could do.  He said, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4, NIV).  And that is what I did in the aftermath of the storm.  I stood silent.  Hadn’t I just whined because my radio station was missing, because I had to wait for a drink, because I didn’t get to go where I wanted to go, and yet just miles away a family now had no home?  Sometimes it takes a whirlwind to put things into perspective, to remind me once again that inconvenience from without and impatience from within have too much power over the attitudes of my heart. 

It’s a matter of my misplaced focus.  At times, I begin to look only at me, me, me and the things I want and need, and Jesus Christ is no longer the center of my life.  Selfishness is at the heart of my whining and complaining about minor annoyances and trivialities.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the center is opened to it.”

It’s a discipline of choosing God over self that takes effort and vigilance.  So, daily we must choose to place and replace Christ at the center of our lives, letting Him have full reign over our circumstances and our heart’s responses to them.


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King