25 September 2012
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5
Frustrated? Yes, you know the irritation you feel when what you want to see happen just doesn't come together; but do you realize that even spiritual giants also face frustration? Remember Joseph, the man who fled from an affair with the wife of the man who employed him? He ended up in big trouble, accused of sexual assault. What about Daniel? Do you not think he was frustrated when he ended up in the lion's den? Do you not imagine that the devil must have said, "See, Buddy, what serving God gets you into?"
As you study the life of Paul, you will see that frustration was also no stranger to him. Even in his personal life he struggled with frustration. Study Romans 7 as Paul says, "It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God's will so far as my new nature is concerned, but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God's willing servant but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin" (Romans 7:21-24, LB). That is frustration. He was also frustrated by wanting to do things that he felt were in the will of God, but was thwarted, stopped cold in his tracks. Remember what he wrote to the Thessalonians, "For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us (I Thessalonians 2:18).
How do we respond to frustration. First, there is anger. You can fight. That was Moses' response to frustration, and it cost him, as it usually does with us. You want to do certain things that you believe you ought to be able to do, but your supervisor puts you in a neat little box. You can stay there and retire, but you do not want to shuffle paper clips for the rest of your days. You are tempted to tell him off. Anger is seldom the right solution to frustration.
I am thinking of the letter which came to me from a woman who told how both she and her husband had been helped so much by our Guidelines publication, "Guidelines for Peace of Mind." She pathetically went on to tell how her husband abused her physically when his intense anger spilled over and she was in his destructive path. "I'm sorry and I won't do it again" may bring forgiveness, but only God through His Spirit can bring the real inner healing which removes the trauma of what has happened.
Another option is flight--you can quit. You can walk out. You can pack up and go somewhere else. Essentially that was what old Jonah did when God said, I want you to go to Nineveh and proclaim the Gospel. Jonah did not happen to want to go. His frustration turned to anger. He could not fight God--his arm was too short, so he ran. Walking away from your problem, walking out on your husband or wife, running away, is not the answer. Another negative response to frustration is to anesthetize your pain, whether it is through drugs or alcohol. This only creates more pain and never eliminates the frustration.
But there is one more thing that needs to be said. We tend to think that we are strictly on our own, that God is either disinterested or else too busy to care about our frustrations. Nothing is further from the truth. He does know and He does care. That is good news!
Resource reading: Philippians 3:1-11.