Who in the human cohort hasn't experienced at the least flashes of frustration? The parking place we've targeted and circled is hijacked by the sleek newcomer to the lot. Keys dropped thirty-eleven times before we reach the front door. The visible gash in our cheek from the morning shave. Losing the ten pounds at the top of last January's resolutions. The nosy neighbor (nuff said). Getting no where fast. Co-workers. Our own habits and tendencies. And, the list goes on, and on. The people over in the psychology department warn us that frustration is a life storm because it raises our barometric pressure to the point we're apt to explode in more destructive ways. What follows is usually uglier and more destructive than the annoyance that lit our fuse.
So, what is it, this storm of frustration? Well, yes, there is a dictionary definition. The Oxford Dictionary wordsmiths define frustration as the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something (www.en.oxforddictionaries.com). Over @ www.psychologistanywhereanytime.com the definition is narrowed somewhat. They say frustration is an emotion that occurs in situations where a person is blocked from reaching a desired outcome. Key ideas in that perspective may actually elevate the reality of frustration into the storm categories of daily life. Being blocked in achieving goals and aspirations introduces a sense of personal assault that offends and ultimately discourages us. And, that's the storm surge of frustration. When we are frustrated other winds and currents are in the seas. Anger, stress, futility, resignation, loss of confidence, depression, and worse can overwhelm us. Frustration can be the entry point of some pretty bad stuff.
Interestingly the word "frustration" appears in the English Standard Version of the Bible only in Deuteronomy 28:20, God's punishment ascribed to disobedient Israel. God promised to send "curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do" as a result of their breaking their covenant with him. However, many other terms that approximate the essence of frustration are descriptive of the human dilemma throughout Scripture. There are troubles, hardships, worries, anxieties, vain repetitions, unsuccessful endeavors, emptiness, envy, sleepless nights, extended periods of waiting, interpersonal malfunctions, and episodes of failure that resulted in frustration, even if not identified as such.
Abraham lied about his wife. Moses was on the treadmill of attempting to judge the entire nation by himself. King David waited for God's response to his prayers. He also dealt with family intrigue and threats to his kingly office. The prophets labored endlessly without result. Jonah got swallowed by a whale. Simon Peter denied Christ three times. The Apostle Paul was beaten, imprisoned, and confessed his anxiety for the churches. Timothy was criticized because of his youth. They all lived the reality of what Jesus had promised to his most intimate followers: "In this life you will have trouble." Each of them knew the security of God's redemptive care. But, none of them were sheltered from the harsh realities of life. Throughout the biblical record are instances when frustration must have enveloped and challenged them. Storms indeed!
At the same time, each of them, and dozens of others I have not identified, moved through the momentary storms of frustration to lead fruitful and God honoring lives. Something deeper and more enduring over-rode their emotions. They navigated the tumultuous seas of disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement to discover God's provision for enduring and solving frustrating experiences. That's the stuff of my thoughts this week, how to progress beyond the physical, emotional, and spiritual storm clouds of frustration to experience the intense joys of abundant, fruitful living. "Frustrated or fruitful?" is the question.
It's a timely one too. Google "America the frustrated" and note the 18,000,000 virtual possibilities that register in .39 seconds. Articles about politics, economics, racial tensions, personal security, immigration, education, crime, and hundreds of other social dilemmas have millions of our fellow citizens living under the dark clouds of frustration. Dreams and wishes about the norms of daily life are swept into the wake of these personal and corporate storms. Perhaps it's time to ask the question, "Frustrated or Fruitful?" in an audience beyond the doors of a local church.
So, let's visit this subject, and pray for the spiritual depth to realize that government or Wall Street or the local gun shop cannot remedy the frustration that marks so many lives today.
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