Being fruitful rather than frustrated.
When the Apostle Paul wrote that "...we have this treasure in jars of clay..." (see 2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV), he was reminding the Corinthians of their human limitations. Created from the dust of the ground, even in the image of God, we mortals are finite as we interact with the creation he entrusted to our care. The world and everything in it are Gods.
So, we have little control of the externals that push our buttons and ignite our fuses. We can watch the weather reports, make note of morning traffic snarls, avoid the people that irritate us, prepare more efficiently for our daily routines, and exercise more care in our relational dynamics. Still, these "jars of clay" can't steer rain clouds, vaporize the fender bender on the morning commute, or govern the inner workings of the people around us. Celebrating the joys and blessings of life should be the default setting of "jars of clay" given the privilege of enjoying them. But, then, again, these "earthen vessels" (another translation) are physically, emotionally, and spiritually wired to experience the darker elements too. Flashes of frustration are part of the baggage.
What about the internal forces that dictate how we handle them? We have a stronger handle on our inner responses to life's rigors. Except for a honk of the horn or a gesture or two, I can't control the workings of the maniac in the next car. Or, the friend who unloads on me while the boss is reviewing my latest project. But, I can manage my responses to them and therefore have some influence over the frustrations that they cause. Here's a simple list---
1. Go deep in your spiritual life.
The Bible counsels spiritual depth as a source of inner peace. Paul wrote to the
Romans, and offered this prayer: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in
hope" (Romans 15:13, ESV). There they are, peace and hope, the blessings of
God for living in a frustrating world.
2. Identify your most common frustrations and avoid them.
Scripture reminds us to establish distance from those elements of life that
ignite the wrong things in us. Paul wrote to his younger friend Timothy, "O
Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and
contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some
have swerved from the faith” ! Timothy 6:20, ESV) It's great wisdom to avoid
those life situations that cause us worry and frustration
3. Count the cost of your commitments.
Jesus taught about counting the cost of our life involvements, commitments
too. He said, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit
down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke
14:28, ESV). Many of our greatest disappointments and frustrations are the
result of investing much time, energy, and resources, and finding little return
for the investment. Honestly counting the cost of our commitments is one way
to lesson the frustration that often results when our expectations aren't met.
4. Be realistic about your relationships.
Other humans are sources of great blessings in life and our most
frequent frustrations. Believers are commissioned to seek and fulfill caring and
thoughtful relationships with all people. But, there is Scriptural wisdom in our
selection of friends. Dozens of verses in the Proverbs provide guidance in
choosing the people in our closest circle. I love the advise of 1 Thessalonians
5:11: "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are
already doing". We should certainly build and edify others. And, they should
provide positive, Godly influence for us.
5. Experience his presence in difficult times.
Once again, there are ample Scripture references about the promise of God's
presence. Usually the promise of "I am with you"or "I will he with you" is
preceded by the command to "Fear not". it may be urban legend, and I have
not counted them, but someone has said there are 366 "Fear not, I am with
you" promises in the Bible, one for every day of the year. Factual or not, how
can we not find comfort and peace in the promise of his presence, especially
when we are being stretched physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Remembering his presence in times of frustration may bring the peace, hope,
and joy so see us through the moment.
Living in a broken world means that disappointment, discouragement, and frustration will be our companions for the entire journey. Some of the causes are simply beyond our control. But, the internal forces that greet the surprises in this wonderful life are things that we can influence and control. Here's praying for the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to live above the frustrations, and experience a genuinely fruitful life.
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