I feel frustrated (there, I’ve said it!)

Over the past few months, there have been increasing numbers of articles about pandemic induced frustration. People from all walks of life are finding that their emotional resilience is just not where it normally is and the silliest of things is triggering them. This is not surprising after the year that we have been through  and is quite understandable. For many of us, we’ve been cooped up for nearly a year and we’ve all been thrown into new ways of working, learning and living. In addition, the normal emotional resilience that we draw from by being in community has been weakened. As a result, there seems to be a lot of frustration and anger bubbling around. Even in the most mildhearted of people! 

Psalm 4 has some really helpful guidance on how to handle this season of frustration.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. 

Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.

(Psalm 4:4-5, ESV)

The first thing to say is that the Psalmist here is more honest than many Christians. There is always a danger of covering over our frustrations with a fake smile and a Christianised “I’m well brother”. The Psalmist here recognises that there are times of frustration and anger, however the goal is to learn how to navigate those seasons so that they don’t become seasons for cultivating sinful thought patterns, or worse still, heart attitudes. So how might we do that?

1. Ponder 

“Ponder in your own hearts” 

I want to suggest that pondering is not something we are given to when amped up and frustrated. To ponder is the process of turning over a situation and looking at it from many different perspectives. If the situation involves another person, part of the pondering process is to try and get inside the skin of that other person, so to speak and to try and understand their perspective. Pondering is also the process of asking God what he might want to be teaching you through this painful and frustrating situation. None of these things are the natural responses of a frustrated and angry heart. So to ponder is a weapon of war against sin and to ponder is a deliberate decision to seek the plans and purposes of God.

2. Be silent 

Secondly, the Psalmist encourages us to be silent. I want to suggest there are two types of silence we need to practice. Firstly an outer silence. Words spoken in frustration and anger rarely lead to healthy long-term outcomes. Normally they are loaded with sharp and biting bits of ‘bone and glass’ words designed to cut and destroy another. In those moments of anger and frustration one of the best things you can do is keep your mouth shut! However, there is a second silence which I think we also need to learn to practice. This is an inner silence. Humans often react to difficult and painful situations with one of two strategies – fight or flight. In our heads we can be plotting and scheming how we will fight back or how we will withdraw in flight. Neither of these approaches are healthy and we need to learn how to silence the inner voices and learn to trust God in the pain and in the angst and to recognise that so often, giving space will help us to see things clearer.

3. Offer right sacrifices 

The third step is to ‘offer right sacrifices’. This means to intentionally turn your heart and life into a worshipper. You probably won’t feel like it! In fact if you are frustrated or even worse, angry, worship may be the last thing you feel like doing, yet drawing near to our great and awesome God, is the only way of allowing true perspective to settle on a frustrating situation. For example, if someone has wound you up, when you look upon the sacrifice that Jesus made for you, how can you look upon that person with anything but love and forgiveness? This is the radical nature of worship – it requires all of who we are to be exposed to God and transformed by him! Offering right sacrifice also means living close to the cross and being ready to ask for forgiveness. Finally, ‘offering right sacrifices’ is also another way of saying ‘don’t withdraw’ from the community! Right sacrifices are always found in the body of Christ where together we worship as God’s new tribe!

4. Put your trust in the Lord 

Finally, putting your trust in the Lord, means leaving your future in his hands. However, it means much more than that. It requires actively leaning upon him when you feel weak and unable to deal with the frustration or angst. It means entrusting the situations and people that are causing frustration into his hands. This is an active and not passive lifestyle that will be challenging in countless moments each week!

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. 

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

(Psalm 4:4-5, ESV)

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