When you feel frustrated

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

frustrated face

Photo by Kevin Lawver. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

BUT I WANT IT NOW!!!!

Ahh, the cry of the frustrated soul. Whether you say it explicitly or just show it through our thoughts, emotions, and behavior, that’s what’s coming out of you.

Appropriately enough, I felt very frustrated when I attempted to write this post. So I’m in prime position to notice the various dynamics that went on inside of me, which included the following. See if you can relate to any of these:

  • I wanted to blame others for ruining my plans, lash out at them, and dish out retribution. How dare they frustrate my plans!
  • I felt some despair. Lord, is there any hope of getting what I want?
  • There’s some self-loathing in there too. “Why didn’t I use my time more wisely earlier? I could have had this task done! Now I don’t have it done because I was thwarted just now!”
  • There’s also self-examination. Lord, what did I desire just now? Was that desire healthy or harmful?

So what can you do when you feel frustrated? Here are five practices you can put on to help you connect with God in the midst of frustration. Each one can be done in as little as a couple of minutes. You may not feel better, but you’ll be with the perfect companion even if you keep feeling frustrated.

  1. Honesty. Tell God exactly what you’re thinking and feeling and what you want to do. Be completely real and open. Let it all out in its rawest form. If you’re able, either shout it aloud or journal it out. That bodily action will make it more real.
  2. Gratitude. Ask God to help you consider what you’re grateful for in the midst of this frustrating situation. The aim here is to shift your focus from what you desire and don’t have to what you have an appreciate. Since you’ll have a beast of a time doing this by yourself, let God move you there as you have that emotional conversation with him.
  3. Naming Your Wants. Since frustration arises from an unmet desire, ask God to help you articulate your desires. This is especially helpful if you are feeling frustrated but don’t know why. Clarifying your desires will help you see your true self.
  4. Detachment. This practice stems from the previous one listed above. Once you’ve identified the desires behind your frustration, give them to God. This means that you are willing to wait for Him to fulfill them in His timing or even have them go permanently unfulfilled. You can simply say, “God, I give these desires to You.” Or you could make the practice more elaborate. Write down your desires and “hand over” the paper to God. Tell a trusted friend about them. Whatever you do, know that you may not actually feel the strength of these desires diminish, but the practice of detaching yourself from them and giving them to God opens you up for Him to do that work.
  5. Compassion/Mercy. This is particularly important if you see your frustration being directed towards others.  In this practice, you actively put on compassion and mercy. Here are several suggestions:
    • Practice the Jesus Prayer. Say this, either aloud or silently in your heart, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Then repeat this over and over as much and as often as you desire. Let it remind you that you need mercy, and let that reminder highlight how much the other person does too.
    • Give or do something nice for the other person. Replace frustration with self-giving service. Then talk to God about where your heart is after you do that act.
    • Ask God for compassion and empathy toward the other person. Try to name feeling words that capture how the other person feels in this moment. Then be present in this moment with the other person in those feelings.

Frustration can feel powerful and consuming because it’s all about your desires. Yet if you are willing to open to God in your frustration, you have the opportunity to grow into a more contented, compassionate, peaceful person. May you find these practices helpful in connecting you to Him.

Question: How do you connect with God when you feel frustrated?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

 

When you feel overwhelmed

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee

Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee by Rembrandt.

Overwhelmed. It can mean:

  • buried, covered, or drowned beneath a huge mass
  • defeated completely
  • so affected emotionally that it’s difficult for you to resist or know how to react
  • overpowered
  • overcome completely in mind or feeling
  • overcome by superior forces

If you feel any or all of these conditions,  you are not alone. Let’s walk through the story of a group of people who felt these exact same feelings….

One evening, Jesus and his disciples took a boat across the Sea of Galilee. The weather was evidently very good for boating, since there were other boats on the water. But suddenly, a storm broke out over the water. Before they knew it, the boat was nearly swamped by the waves!

Just like for the disciples, you too have unexpected events that overwhelm you. It could be a sickness, a job change, or even a phone call. Yet for some of you, you feel overwhelmed because of a constant circumstance in your life. Maybe you’re an at-home parent caring for multiple young children, and you can’t imagine ever getting a minute for yourself and you can’t see  when this would ever end. Maybe your mountain of work just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and no matter how much you work you can’t seem to make any headway. Maybe you’re in a relationship that just keeps deteriorating, and the toxicity and the pain just cloud out all the joy in your life. Or maybe you’re dealing with your own internal issues – anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness – and you can’t imagine it being any other way. Whatever your situation is, your feelings of being overwhelmed are very real to you. Let’s see how the disciples reacted.

As they’re dealing with the storm, they  realize is that Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat. So they wake him and say to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

I want you to hear the different emotions in their voices. Several of these men were professional fisherman who fished on this very sea for a living. Surely they must have encountered storms before. And here they are, worried that they’ll drown. At the point of their highest skill, their highest competency, they are completely and utterly overwhelmed.

How do you see yourself in this? For some of you, feeling overwhelmed at your point of greatest strength is your current state in life. Maybe you’re in your dream job, the one you trained years to get, and now you feel totally lost and unsure how to move forward. Maybe you were a teacher for a living, and now you can’t even get your kids to sit down for a meal.

And it’s even worse for the disciples. They find Jesus asleep. Jesus, their great Teacher, is oblivious to what’s going on. Out of desperation, they wake him and plead, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Perhaps somewhere in the back of their minds, they feared Jesus’ answer would be, “No, I don’t care.” Why else wouldn’t he be doing something to help them?

How do you find yourself being like the disciples? In the midst of your overwhelming situation, how are you tempted to believe that Jesus has no clue what’s going on? Or worse, in what ways do you believe that he doesn’t care whether or not you drown in  your situation?

Friends, that’s about as bad as it gets. Feeling overwhelmed, thinking you’re going to lose yourself or die in this situation, and believing that Jesus doesn’t even care.

Now here’s the astonishing part. With just a few words, Jesus transformed the entire storm into utter calm.

But here’s the catch for the disciples. Jesus turns to them and says, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Unfortunately, they don’t. Their fear shows that they didn’t have confidence in Jesus to act in this situation. They’re now terrified because they couldn’t fathom a Jesus that could command the wind and the waves.

So how about for you? Now that you’ve seen Jesus totally transform a situation that overwhelmed even the most experienced disciples, what do you think he can do in your overwhelming situation? Some of you saw Jesus calm the storm and said, “Yeah, but that won’t happen in my life.” Some of you resign yourselves to drowning. Some of you don’t hope or trust that Jesus will come through. And some of you looked into that story and found a new hope, a new possibility for your life. Some of you saw that if Jesus could save his disciples then, he can save you now. Some of you saw that no matter how overwhelming your situation, Jesus has full command of it, even if you think he’s asleep at the wheel and even if you’re feeling pressed more than you think is reasonable. Whatever your response is, tell it to Jesus, and have a real, honest conversation with him about what you really think about his power to save you.

Lord Jesus, may you give each person who reads this the insight to know that you have authority over all things. That you establish the boundaries for order and chaos, and that you are able to calm any storm. May each one know that you care about his or her life. That you hold each life in your hands, even as he or she thinks that identity, joy, hope, and even life itself is being overwhelmed in this situation. Please be gentle with each one, bearing patiently with any lack of trust in you and leading each one into a fuller understanding of who you are and the power you possess. Amen.

Question: What is overwhelming you right now? How much do you trust Jesus’ power to save you in the midst of it?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

(In case you’re wondering, this story comes from Mark 4:35-41.)

When you feel burdened

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

Two passages from Scripture come to mind when I think about feeling burdened (both quoted from the NIV):

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, this is Jesus speaking)

I offer to you several questions that would be worth discussing with the Lord in prayer. “Lord, …

Man carrying heavy load

Photo by ah zut. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

  • To what extent do I believe that these statements in Scripture are true? To the extent that I believe they are false, what are my reasons?
  • What daily burden(s) do I need You to bear for me?
  • To what extent do I experience the weight of what You command me to do as easy and light? To what extent do I feel burdened by what You command of me?
  • How do I experience Your gentleness in the midst of my burden? In what ways do I experience the opposite of gentleness, and who do I believe is treating me in that harsh way?
  • How do I want You to bear my burden?
  • How are You bearing my burdens right now?
  • What do I want my rest to look like? What kind of rest are You actually giving me?
  • Who in my life helps me with my burdens in the ways that these verses say You do?
  • In what ways am I coming to You with my burdens? In what ways am I going elsewhere to deal with my burdens rather than coming to You?

Question: What feels the most burdensome to you right now?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

When you feel unable to think

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

Unable to think…. When I started writing this post, I had a clear impression that my task is not to fix your issues or offer solutions. My task is to point you to God. Left to my own devices, I would have attempted to offer solutions instead, to give you ways or tips to help you carve out space in your schedule so you can think. That’s what I would have wanted for myself. But that is not my role.

Man that can't think!

Photo by andres.thor. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

So instead, I offer you this set of assorted thoughts:

  1. It’s hard to think while you’re under attack. This means that when you feel unable to think, it’s worth considering whether you’re encountering spiritual warfare. I’m sure that at some level, Satan would love to keep your mind so occupied that you can’t think straight. And if you can’t think straight, you certainly can’t think straight about God.
  2. We are lovers before we are thinkers. That means that our hearts are drawn to things even if we’re not thinking about them. This can be bad, such as when our hearts are drawn away from God without us even being aware of it. But it can also be good. When our hearts are in love with God, we are drawn to Him even if we aren’t consciously thinking about it.
  3. When I asked the Lord what I should write, this is what I received. I pass it on to you: “I (the Lord) love you. I love you even if you can’t think straight. I love you even if you make errors or choose poorly because you weren’t thinking. My desires for you and your family are not thwarted because you weren’t thinking well. Let me think for you.”

I close with a prayer: Lord, be with us. We desire to think well and clearly, both for our own sake and for the sake of those around us. Many of us have placed a high premium on being able to think, so when we do not have that ability, we feel uncomfortable. Lost. Perhaps even panicked. Helpless. Frustrated. Ineffective. Useless. Like we’re continually screwing things up and making bad choices. Like we’re out of control. Lord, I give to You the many and varied emotions we feel. Please immerse us in Your love. Please guide us even when we can’t think clearly enough to see what’s ahead. I pray especially for stay-at-home parents and others whose lives and circumstances are such that even getting a moment to stop and think feels impossible. May you provide extra grace to them, allowing them to take comfort in Your compassionate, helpful, and sustaining presence with them in the middle of their incredibly trying circumstances. May they in particular know what kind of power You supply in the middle of this particular weakness of ours. In the Name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Question: What’s at stake for you in being able to think or think well?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

When You Feel Anxiety

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

Anxiety. It means you’re not at shalom, not at full peace . That you’ve got this generalized fear that something will go wrong and that it will affect you negatively. Anxiety can be debilitating. It can also be a gift, a reminder for you to seek God. Anxiety reminds you that you’re trying to deal with your worries by yourself.

Cast all your anxiety on God

Photo by Lel4nd. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

As a busy person, you sure have a lot you could worry about. And in fact you do worry about those things. The problem is when you internalize your worries, when you obsess about them, when they dominate your thoughts and you start believing that you must deal with them on your own. That you are solely responsible for these issues.

First Peter 5:6-7 is instructive here. Many of you are familiar with 5:7 – “Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.” Some translations even say “Cast all your anxieties,” so this verse is an even better fit. Now, what you need to know is that 5:6 and 5:7 are linked. The command to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God” and the command to “cast all your cares on Him” are connected. They’re not two separate commands that have nothing to do with each other. In fact, 5:7 is how you do 5:6. You become humbled under God’s mighty hand by casting all your anxieties on Him, knowing that He cares for you.

The image here is that of a parent and a young child. You are to completely trust your heavenly Father’s will for your life. Now, that doesn’t mean you do it silently and blindly. Just like a little child, you tell your heavenly Father everything that’s on your heart. Just like a little child does: “Will you come pick me up?” “Are we there yet?” “I’m tired!” “Will you catch me at the bottom of the slide?” “I want that!” Every one of these is a care, concern, or anxiety. And every one of these, when expressed to a loving and compassionate parent, will eventually lead to a place of greater humility and peace.

To what extent can you tell God everything you’re concerned and anxious about, just like that little child? I encourage you to do it. God is indeed loving and compassionate. He will bring you more peace, not more anxiety. To make this conversation with God more real, either do it aloud or write it down. Or do both. Using your body will help you experience the truth of God’s response more clearly.

Another idea is to regularly write down whatever you’re worried or anxious about on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and literally “cast” it at God. Let your action say that you’re giving it to Him and not keeping . And don’t go picking it up again, unless it’s to throw it in the trash! (Of course, this doesn’t mean you won’t be responsible in the situation. It just means that your self-worth is not longer staked to it and that you’re not the only one responsible.)

A third idea is to write the list and give it to a trusted friend who represents God by proxy. He or she can then say to you, “What are you doing picking those anxieties back up again?”, this mirroring God’s loving care (1 Pet 5:7) to you.

May it be that when you tend to your anxieties, that you find that they point you to God. And in God, may you find shalom.

Question: What anxieties can you cast on God right now?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.