Why is life so frustrating?

FrustrationWhy is life so frustrating? The simple answer is that we live in an imperfect world as the result of sin, and that imperfection inevitably leads to frustration.  But let’s take a closer look.

We become frustrated when we want something and we don’t receive it.  For example:

  • Do we want someone to behave in a different manner?  Are we frustrated because we cannot control them?
  • Do we want a situation to have a different outcome?  Are we frustrated because we can’t dictate the results?
  • Do we want things we cannot have or afford?  Are we frustrated because someone else has something we want or because we never seem to have enough.
  • Are we weary of chasing after something that seems constantly out of reach?  Are we frustrated because we never reach that elusive goal no matter how hard we try?

Here’s the key:  We become frustrated when we don’t get something that we want, and we don’t get what we want because we want the wrong thing.

If we desire God above all else, we won’t be frustrated, because we will never fail to obtain what we desire.  God designed us to want His delight and His glory (Psa 37:4; Jer 29:13; 1 Pet 1:8; Rev 4:11).  If we are constantly looking out for our own delight and our own glory, we will eventually become frustrated, and frustration leads to a host of other negative emotions, including discontentment, anger, and despair.

This happened in the days of the prophet Haggai.  A remnant of Israelites had returned to Jerusalem and Judah after being held captive far away in Babylon for seventy years.  They started rebuilding God’s temple in Jerusalem, which had been completely destroyed by the Babylonians, but they soon stopped under intense pressure from their enemies.  Then apathy set in, and frustration followed:

“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house [God’s temple] lies desolate?”

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!

“You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!”  Hag 1:4-7

For fifteen years, they forgot about God’s unfinished temple, and they focused on building their own houses, their own finances, their own comforts.   But it was a frustrating time, because nothing they did would satisfy:

“You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.

“Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce.

“I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”  Hag 1:9-11

While they were sleepwalking through life, God was trying to get their attention.  Do we stop and listen when frustration and dissatisfaction begin to bubble up within us?  We should.  God has something to say:

“Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD.  Hag 1:8

I added the emphasis on the words pleased and glorified.  Take note:  God created us for His pleasure, His glory (Rev 4:11).

If we desire anything else above His delight and His glory, we will undoubtedly experience frustration.

The following quote from John Piper really helped me to see this truth:

The first message in [Haggai] chapter 1 reveals to the governor and priest and people that the reason they are all frustrated is that they have tried to make their own lives comfortable while neglecting the temple of God…

So they lived in perpetual frustration and discontentment. Nothing satisfied. We can’t pass over this lesson easily.  It’s for us, too.  If you devote yourself to sowing and eating and drinking and clothing yourselves and earning wages, but neglect your ministry in the body of Christ (the temple of God, 1 Cor 3:16-17), you will live in constant frustration.  If you spend your time and energy seeking comfort and security from the world, and do not spend yourself for the glory of God, every pleasure will leave its sour aftertaste of depression and guilt and frustration.

Both then and now the real problem is not the neglect of a building but indifference to the glory of God.  The temple of the Old Testament existed for the glory of God.  And the Church today exists for the glory of God (Eph 1:6, 12, 14).  Indifference to the growth and spiritual prosperity of the Church and its mission is always a sign of failure to love the glory of God.  And the sour fruit of this failure is a life of chronic frustration.  He who seeks to save his life will lose it to continual frustrations; but he who loses his life for the glory of God and the good of his cause will find life, deep and fulfilling.

(Desiring God Resource Library:  “Take Courage:  You Build More Than You See”)

So what can we do to ward off frustration?  We must want the right thing, and the right thing is God Himself, His delight, His glory:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Matt 6:33

To finish Haggai’s story, the people listened to God.  They obeyed His call to consider their ways and return to Him.  As a result, God sent one message of encouragement after another:

“I am with you.”  Hag 1:13

“Take courage…for I am with you.”  Hag 2:4

“My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!”  Hag 2:5

“I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory.”  Hag 2:7

“The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, … and in this place I will give peace.”  Hag 2:9

“… from this day on I will bless you.”  Hag 2:19

And God kept His promises.  Ezra chapters 5 and 6 provide additional insights into the historical setting for Haggai (and Zechariah).  The poor remnant of Jews that returned to Judah were surrounded by enemies that tried again and again to thwart their efforts to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem.  When the people obeyed God and sought His glory above their own, He not only routed their enemies, He forced their enemies to pay for the very rebuilding project that they had tried to dismantle.  Marvel at the following royal decree of King Darius of Persia (520 BC):

“Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and your colleagues, the officials of the provinces beyond the River, keep away from there.

“Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site.

“Moreover, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of this house of God: the full cost is to be paid to these people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the River, and that without delay.

“Whatever is needed, both young bulls, rams, and lambs for a burnt offering to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and anointing oil, as the priests in Jerusalem request, it is to be given to them daily without fail, that they may offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.

“And I issued a decree that any man who violates this edict, a timber shall be drawn from his house and he shall be impaled on it and his house shall be made a refuse heap on account of this.

“May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempts to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!”  Ezra 6:6-12

Ask God to make you a man or a woman who delights in Him (Ps 37:4).  Ask God to make you a son or a daughter in whom He delights (Ps 18:19).  Go ahead.  Give it a try.

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2 Responses to “Why is life so frustrating?”

  1. Carol Christal July 23, 2011

    Hey David,
    Just wanted to let you know our Fall classes at First Baptist RR. I will lead Zechariah from Sept 1 – Oct. 20. I hope you will join us again. We will also offer Malachi Oct. 27 – Nov 10 led by various ones. Because we have a grand baby due in November, I will not be available to lead class in November.

    I got an itouch — my grand daughter’s “old” one— a generation 3. I’m coming up to speed with technology! hehe

    I will send you the classes information next week when we start registration.

    Did you find a church home?


  2. Hi, Carol! Funny you should ask. I’ve got the workbook and DVDs for Zechariah and was just about to work through it on my own. :) Maybe I’ll wait till September and join you guys instead.

    iPod Touches are wonderful little devices. Be sure to install OliveTree BibleReader, Accordance, and / or Logos.

    Yes on the church. I’m going to Central in RR.

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