Facing Frustration in a New Way
I had a very hard time waking up this morning. I knew that I had to get to work earlier than usual and yet every time I tried to awaken enough to get out of bed the tiredness just kept pushing me back into dreamland.
Each time I felt nudged to get up by the Spirit I would began talking with God. I usually talk with God extensively every morning before I get up, but this time instead of making me more awake my praises and requests only slipped me back into sleep again. I knew what was happening but seemed incapable of arousing enough will-power to overcome my lethargy.
At one point I was reminded that if I would just exert enough effort to keep my eyes open that more energy would soon become available to make another step toward getting up. Then the truth of this stirred me as I realized that the same is true of my spiritual lethargy. If I can only focus on having my spiritual eyes opened more to both my own true condition but even more so to the real truth about God and His feelings towards me, then everything else will come into perspective in time. It is my spiritual darkness and blindness that prevents most of my growth and keeps me deceived into thinking that I am O.K. the way I am.
After finally getting up and opening the devotional for today in the book Jesus Calling, I was encouraged to see another affirmation that God knows and listens to my thoughts and comments to Him. While I was trying to awaken I had quoted from the Psalms the verse, This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. (Psalm 118:24) Within the message from Jesus for me in this reading was the very same reference. When this kind of thing happens it always serves as a reminder that Jesus knows ahead of time what message I am going to read and at times puts it into my mind earlier just to remind me of His love so that I can be encouraged to trust Him more.
I am currently struggling to relate properly with a right spirit to a current frustrating situation with the electrician that is supposed to finish up his work at the church. I am almost finished with all the other work, but the electrician seems to refuse to communicate with me. It seems that he is deliberately avoiding my calls and when I do get through on rare occasion the promises he makes to show up never materialize as happened again yesterday.
My temptation is to react the 'normal' way – to get frustrated, upset, suspicious and to start scheming as to how I can accomplish this job without him. I pray and I try everything I can think of to get him to cooperate with us but so far nothing has worked.
Yet through all of this frustration and dysfunction I sense that the real issue has far more to do with my own character training than it has to do with finishing up the remodeling project on the church building. Oh yes, have I forgotten? I have been asking God repeatedly to work a remodeling project in my own heart and in the hearts of all of our members even more thoroughly than what has been taking place physically in the church building. So it should come as no surprise at all if Jesus is answering my prayers. But now how am I going to cooperate with Him?
It is time for me to grow up some more, I can see. It is not enough to allow myself to react with the typical responses that rise up out of frustration and irritation with this man. It is not even enough to try to make excuses for him or to figure out which conspiracy theory he might be involved in that would explain his seemingly strange behavior. None of these will help me to mature and strengthen my own character. He is not the problem here not matter how obvious that may seem. I must learn to keep very focused on Jesus and keep reminding myself to seek His perspective rather than on my own as I am so used to relying on to view things.
At times it seems easier to do that. I begin to sense my need to be very patient with him, to demonstrate not only to him but to everyone aware of this situation the way Jesus relates to us. I am reminded of Moses who was reprimanded by God after he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. God did not scold him for disobeying him so much as He rather expressed keen disappointment that Moses had failed to represent the real attitude and patience of God under pressure.
Moses knew God better than nearly any man who has ever lived. He was not like the average person who has dark, distorted ideas about God, for Moses had come to the place in his life where he had begun to consistently reflect the true spirit of God repeatedly under increasingly difficult situations and in dealing with outrageously cantankerous and negative people. Moses had allowed God's influence on his heart to so transform him that God had allowed him to face increasingly hostile situations, trusting Moses to demonstrate in ever-increasing clarity the beauty of God's character and the strength of God's love and patience in contrast to the stubbornness and hostility of those rebellious 'children'.
But when it came to one of the most discouraging and difficult tests that pushed Moses to the breaking point, instead of keeping his focus entirely on what he knew God to be like from personal experience with Him, Moses allowed his human nature to rise up and cause him to react in kind to the angry spirit that the Children of Israel was demonstrating toward him and toward God. Thus, in a moment of frustration and weakness Moses allowed the overwhelming negativity and complaining around him to affect his choices and reactions rather than keeping his perspective grounded in God's presence. As a result he acted rashly and spoke words that he very soon regretted.
Not only did Moses disappoint God's trust in him but he also strengthened the lies of the enemy about how God feels toward rebellious sinners in the minds and hearts of millions of people both then and throughout history ever since. Elijah likewise made an ill-advised move to take things into his own hands just when God could have demonstrated a spectacular display of self-control to reveal one of the most profound truths about God that this world needs to see clearly. Moses' sin had far more to do with the message conveyed by his attitudes and actions under frustrating pressure from others than it had to do with not strictly following instructions or rules.
Being aware of these things, I find myself in a very small way facing a similar test of my own. I sense that God is allowing this situation to drag on to see if I am ready to put into practice what He has been teaching me over the past few months and years about this very issue. Am I ready to brace my heart to keep focused on the goodness of God and His ability to deal with any situation no matter how frustrating? Or like Moses and Elijah, great men of faith as they were, am I going to allow the malfunction of others to arouse my reactive sinful nature to misrepresent God under pressure and miss my own chance to practice what I have been 'preaching' for some time?
Not everyone is trusted with this kind of test by God. It is those who are being advanced to deeper levels of trust that must be tested to see if they are ready to move on to another level of training, just as tests are required in school to determine when a person is ready to move to the next grade. God has been extremely gracious to me by providing me with many insights that many others have not yet seen. Rather than feel pride in my heart for this, I need to view this privilege as a responsibility to deepen the integration between my own mind and heart where my emotions affect my reactions under pressure. Am I willing to let God implant these truths I have been learning in my head deeper into the atmosphere of my heart and spirit where they are intended to operate most effectively?
Father, I perceive – at least as much as I can in the moment – that what I really need is humility, total dependence and trust in Your heart, and peace of mind that passes all understanding in this situation. I need all of these things in order to counteract the natural reactions that I am so used to having and that even sometimes seem reasonable according to the perspective of many around me.
Yet I sense that I must be very wary of taking things into my own hands like You have shown me was the mistake of both Moses and Elijah. And while You can still accomplish Your will even when I do make the wrong choices, Your reputation suffers an unneeded setback whenever I misrepresent You after trying to speak so much in Your favor.
I know that there is a great deal of suspicion and resistance to the truths about You that I try to share with others. These revelations about Your character and Your ways are not welcome in standardized religion and any who promote such teachings are soon viewed as undermining the faith of believers. Yet I am coming to realize that in reality religion has left us indeed poor, blind, naked and wretched while completely oblivious to our condition just as You said. We desperately need eyesalve from You to heal the deep darkness of spiritual blindness so we can see our desperate condition and turn to You for healing.
Yet through all of this increasing revelation of my real problems and similar ones in those around me, You want me to lead by example as well as sharing from my head what I am learning. I must be willing to have You transform my heart, my attitudes, my reactions under pressure or else all my assertions about Your ways loses credibility. You want to grow me to the point where You can begin to trust me more to represent the truth about You in the ways I respond under frustrating circumstances such as what I am facing right now, in order to better demonstrate these truths about You in actions and attitudes even more than through words.
Father, You know my heart far better than I do and You know how weak and vulnerable I am to slipping into old habits of reacting. What I need more than anything is to have a much closer connection with Your heart, to sense moment by moment a keen awareness of Your love for me and the value that You have for me personally. It is a lack of this sense of being valued by You that lies at the root of all sin and I long to live more consistently in Your presence in a secure sense of Your love for me. This is the only real solution to prepare me for the daily tests and trials that You allow to come to strengthen and deepen my character to reflect what I am learning about You.
Father, I desperately need healing for the deeply-seated selfishness that permeates every part of my makeup. I see it everywhere I look inside and I often wonder if You haven't taken on more than is possible when You propose to transform me into Your selfless likeness. But I have to trust that You can do what You say You can do in me because You have infinite resources and the power of Your love is beyond measure. Your power lies in the transformational ability of Your love and Your presence to heal and change the most proud, stubborn, damaged heart and character and to bring such an one to perfectly reflect Your beauty and glory when You are allowed to have Your way.
Have Your way in me God, and demonstrate Your kindness, Your graciousness, Your forgiveness and Your patience through me as I face this day and all that it has in store. Reveal Yourself through me today so that others might catch a clearer glimpse of the real truth about You, not just in my claims but by my allowing You to actualize those claims in my new reactions to problems in my life. Do this for Your reputation's sake, Amen.