I see so many great posts about what to do as a Christian when you’re:
but I don’t think I’ve seen that many blog posts that tackle to topic of frustration head on… so that’s where I’m going today, specifically, “How to handle your frustration” and “What to do when you’re frustrated at your circumstances, God, yourself and others.”
Oh boy it’s going bee a doozy, so here we go.
Usually I wouldn’t make the following generalization, but I think it’s safe to also say that:
Every single one of us is frustrated with something right now.
Not only that we “have been frustrated in the past”, or are “prepared to be frustrated in the future,” but each of us is currently frustrated with something or someone in our life.
Maybe you’re frustrated with the election results.
Maybe you’re frustrated with the Pandemic, limiting what you can and cannot do and making things, especially holidays look a lot different this year.
Maybe you’re frustrated that you’re homeschooling and you can’t seem to get ahead.
Maybe you’re frustrated in your relationships, it’s hard to build and maintain deep connections in a virtual space.
Maybe you’re frustrated at God. Things have gone from bad to worse and you have no control of what happened so you don’t blame yourself, you blame God.
(and if I’m wrong and you are not frustrated with anything, please comment below and share your secret!)
And for many of us, the list keeps going on and on. In fact, I bet if we actually sat down and listed each and everything that we are frustrated by or with, it would be a much longer list than we’d expect. (If you do it, let me know your thoughts and what your learned from writing out your frustrations, I’m curious to see if writing it all out helps, or leaves you feeling more frustrated!)
To help us be able to manage and handle all of our current frustrations we need to know a little bit about where frustration come from and how we define it. (Here is where I get all psychological for a second)
Frustration is defined as, “a common emotional response to opposition, related to anger, annoyance and disappointment. Frustration arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of an individual’s will or goal and is likely to increase when a will or goal is denied or blocked.” (source: Wikipedia)
There are several theories behind why we get frustrated and what causes our frustration, but I’m going to focus on one in particular called, “The Frustration Aggression Theory”.
Basically it a result of a blocked goal of some sort, and if a goal is blocked we can easily not only become frustrated, but also aggressive.
Frustration is not an independent state of mind, rather it is a reaction or response to an undesirable situation.
This isn’t limited to physical aggression (although that’s possible, just ask my toddler when she doesn’t get her way) but also verbal and relational aggression.
being short- tempered. overcritical. harsh. or even deflecting or ignoring are also some examples of aggression related to being frustrated.
So we have this ideal goal (or expectation) in our mind of how things should be and yet there is a disconnect between where we are now and where we want to be.
That space or gap between the two is the breeding ground for our frustration. (Just like the example of my moms surgery and her slow, seemingly-no-existent recovery)
This pandemic has thrown us all for a loop. We thought we’d be better be now, maybe you even thought everything would be “normal ” again, but instead we have taken steps back instead of forward, and for many parts of the country, COVID- 19 is the worst it’s ever been and many places are already on lockdown.
So way back in March when this started, maybe you (like me) thought that it would be better by late spring.
then surely by summer.
then absolutely, no question gone by fall.
We probably all thought holidays over Zoom and not spent with our families was not even in the cards for us this holiday season.
But, alas here we are. Large family gatherings have been moved to Zoom meetings. Instead of cooking for our extended familes we are cooking smaller thankgiving meals and even though they sometimes annoy us, we even will miss our wacky and off-the-wall realative who has no filter at the dinner table this year.
To compound this idea of being frustrated, here is another term I’m going to throw at you, called “Cognitive Dissonance”. Cognitive dissonance refers to, “occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them” (source: Wikipedia).
Basically cognitive dissonance is when we are doing things that we don’t particularly believe in or value. The “psychological stress” mentioned above can manifest as our frustration.
At this point you’re probably like, “Ok so now I know how I get frustrated and why I’m frustated but can you just tell me what to do with my frustration?”
(maybe you’re even frustrated with this post because you just want the answer to melt away your frustration and get you back to your normal, joyful self.)
Well, as many of you may or may not know, I talk about emotions heavily in my book, “The Butterfly: Blueprint: How to to Renew Your Faith, and one of the things I bring up is that our emotions are really indicators of something deeper than may be going on, especially when it involves how we respond to a certain situation.
So when we are frustrated it can help to identify the source of our frustration. (Know why you’re frustrated or upset) But then if we are upset about something we can’t control or “do anything about”, The only other option is then to shift our beliefs or values to justify or rationalize our choice.
I guess this is the best option.
I guess this is a good idea.
I want family and connection now, but I guess its better to take precautions so we can all be around longer.
Life looks nothing like I thought it would at this point, but I guess the only thing left for me to do is trust God. (Yep, I talked about trusting God in my last post)
In this case, we could argue that our frustration is aggravated by our need for control, and not even just control, but our need for certainty (or familiarity).
I want to know that my efforts and choices now will directly pay off in the future. So I try to control my life as best as I can, hoping that doing so will mean fewer surprises down the road.
There will always be curveballs thrown at us in life, the difference in how painful these become is measured by our willingness to embrace change and uncertainty instead of run from it.
I’ll give you the first example of “embracing pain” that popped into my head. Labor. When you are in labor, you are told to “embrace each contraction” and “ride the wave”. Each break in between isn’t spend dreading the next contraction and tensing up so much that is makes the pain 10x worse. The breaks in between are preparing you for the next contraction, even as you dread it, you endure it, knowing that something glorious awaits you on the other side.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:204 NIV.
The only thing we can be certain of is that life is full of uncertainty, but God is control.
We are promised heartache and suffering (many of things that leave us frustrated)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
Maybe that frustrates you even more, but if you are willing to let go of what you thought your life would look like or what you want things to be like, you will be much more at peace.
Let go of what you thought your life should be like, and embrace what is.
There it is, the truth, the nasty ugly truth to resolve our frustration is to simply, deal with it.
But more than deal with it, learn to be ok with not being ok. Learn to acccept the things you cannot change and even the things you don’t understand. (Hmm sounds a lot like the serenity prayer to me)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Our contentment is not based on circumstances, but on Christ and Christ alone.
I feel like contentment and gratitude are repeat themes in my writing lately (it seems to be something that I’m having a hard time with)
The best way to beat frustration in this season is to accept where you are, and know that no matter how dark and hopeless your circumstances seems, God is good and God is greater than anything you will face.
We can’t focus on all the things we don’t have if we want to squash our frustration, but we should focus on all the things we are thankful for.
So, what are you thankful for? What is something good that you thank God for today (despite your circumstances and despite how you are feeling?) I encourage you to journal them, or share them below.
I think this post has gotten long enough for now, I will address how to handle our frustration with God and our circumstances in subsequent posts.