The most annoying thing about community is that it is filled with other people. Life would be much easier if everything revolved around my own plans, thoughts, or experiences. Don’t you agree? Have you ever felt that way? It’s not that we don’t like other people, it’s just that sometimes they can disagree with us. These disagreements, then, can cause some interesting dynamics. At best, these situations can be trying, and at worst, they can be downright frustrating.
What do we do in these times of frustration? Personally, I know that it is easy for me to respond with some sort of witty retort. A comment is made, or a look is given, and I can fire off a zinger to those who critique me. And if the frustration is sufficient or my zinger particularly poignant, I may even see fit to post the event on social media. Sure, I’ll change the names. I’ll use code—words so‘no one knows who I am talking about (who am I kidding?), but still, I will vent about the situation to anyone who comes across my post. It is the dark side of me. I recognise the desire for one-up-man-ship: to, in the light of criticism, prove my position and thereby my superiority. Of course, intermixed in all of this is the even seedier desire to make the other feel petty and small. It is not enough for me to be shown right. The other must be shown to be incompetent. What is more, when I post these things on social media, I can get a shameful sense of self-righteous satisfaction when people comment on my post.
Now, we all have confidantes. We all have friends we turn to when we need encouragement or care. These intimate, private conversations are an important part of our spiritual lives. Our family, friends, and confessors are gifts that help us navigate the difficulties of life and ministry. I am not suggesting that we can never talk about what concerns us, or even what hurts us. But when we are tempted to make our frustrations public we must ask ourselves: what is the point of doing this? Do we wish to prove ourselves? Do we wish to put the other party down? Do we want to be cared for, or just proved right?
Might I suggest that this public airing of our frustrations is not the way of Jesus? Jesus led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was silent before his accusers. When stricken, he did not strike back. When tormented, he did not tantrum. He did not retaliate when ridiculed. In love and grace, he bore that inner frustration, knowing that the way of God held something far richer than mere self-righteousness.
To follow Jesus is to do the same. We are called, particularly those of us in ministry, to be silent before those who accuse us. This doesn’t mean we get walked on, but it does mean that we do not respond to yelling with yelling, or criticism with criticism. In the competition of who can complain the loudest, no one ever wins. In light of frustration, the question before us is not “how do I prove my rightness?” but “how do I respond in love?“ And if such a loving response seems beyond us—if our frustrations are too high and our feelings are too hurt—then we must seek to be silent and prayerful.
To bear the frustration means I do not make my frustrations a spectacle for others to enjoy. After all, what good comes from others looking down upon another individual in our community? Furthermore, does this not tell everyone else that it is only a matter of time before we air our frustrations about them? Charles Spurgeon wrote:
The reputations of the Lord’s people should be very precious in our sight, and we should count it shame to help the devil to dishonour the Church and the name of the Lord.
To follow Jesus is to bear these frustrations. It is to willfully act in the loving, grace-filled forgiveness of God. We choose to see Christ in the other, and at the same time, we allow the other to see Christ in us. This also means that when we come across slanderous statements made about another person—a friend, a colleague, or a loved on—we do not pass those on. We do not add to another’s frustration by saying, “guess what so and so said about you?” No. In a gift of sacrificial love to the other, we bear that frustration so they do not have to.
Yet in doing all of this, we recognise that we are called to lay these frustrations before the presence of The Lord. We bear our frustrations but we do not need to hold on to them; we can release them into the open hands of Jesus. Thus, to bear our frustrations is to lay them before the Cross of Christ and become transformed by His love and grace.
Jesus may your love continue to capture me and be the rhythm to which my heart beats. In your grace, give me the willingness to bare all the frustrations I am called to bare, so that those around me can more fully receive expressions of your love and grace. Yet in baring these frustrations, lead me more deeply into your presence, to the place where I can lay these things before you, the source of my life and freedom. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.