There's a reason the Father of Lies is so desperate for us to buy his message that the flow of good feelings and the fulfillment of fleshly desire is the benchmark of abundant living. He's an enemy of the Cross who hates our hope being set on a Savior whose plan of redemption will have every knee bowing to His Sovereignty. The Bible tells us creation was subjected to frustration by the will of God, a frustration that is intended to set our focus on a heavenly hope that's found in Christ alone. Responding to this earthly frustration with retreat from the Cross because of thinking it's somehow not fair or not part of being a true Believer is exactly what the Enemy desires.
The majority of my counseling is centered on helping hurting Christians to understand that our suffering is an integral part of God's glorious plan of redemption. That our physical pain has purpose that extends far beyond any temporal objective. That our emotional wrangling with grief and emptiness and loneliness are guideposts that direct us to a place far more glorious than this world. That yes, even our God-ordained frustrations have eternal purpose; frustrations that disrupt our lives in the following three ways:
1.) Sexual Frustration
God created us as sexual beings, male and female. His design came with a holy pleasure of perfection and a shameless bearing of nakedness without any stain of sin. But when the Fall thrust creation into chaos, mankind was left blemished and broken. Not just spiritually broken, but sexually broken. A brokenness that is desperate for a covering of grace.
The Fall has left our souls yearning for restoration, groaning inwardly for the full redemption of our bodies. It's ultimately a yearning for that eternal union of sinless perfection with our Redeemer, but its a yearning that comes with desire for an earthly taste of that sinless union with our reconciling Savior. It's desire for an earthly taste that God decreed to be enjoyed within the covenant of marriage, the only place where the picture of Christ and His Bride provides the sacrifice and surrender that connects sex with holiness. But because of sin, it's a yearning that can cause as much frustration inside a marriage as it does without.
The marital connection of sex and holiness is littered with the debris of the Fall. It's why I'm continually listening to couples share their sufferings with sexual frustration. And it's why my counsel to them is to view themselves as allies in the sacred task of building a bridge between sex and holiness, patiently working together to overcome the struggles that are unique to their union. For some couples that bridge-building is a deeply painful process that's marred with the debris of sexual abuse from childhood. For some it's marred by the sinful imagery of promiscuity or pornography. And for others, it's marred by sexual dysfunction for a myriad of reasons, whether physical, mental or emotional. Sometimes the debris can be piled high enough that a couple may never experience the climatic pleasure of a holy sexual moment, but they can still enjoy the holy process that is their sacred and sovereignly-ordained endeavor. And even if there's not the debris of abuse, or sinful imagery, or dysfunction, couples can often find themselves facing the frustration of polarizing sexual drives and fluctuating sexual appetites that come with our hormonal bodies of decay that groan for redemption.
And then there's the sexual frustration that comes from our indwelling sin that can have us desiring the very things we decry as worldly and declare to be unholy. Without a covering of grace, our sin loves exposing itself while outwardly feeding sexual lust and inwardly fueling sexual fantasy. At one corner we can find ourselves fighting against inappropriate desire, and at the next corner fighting for appropriate desire. We can be sexually turned on when we should be turned off, and we can be turned off when we should be turned on. Like the Apostle Paul, our indwelling sin can so easily find us not doing the things that we want to do and doing the things that we hate. In other words, apart from grace we are a hot mess of sexual contradiction.
2.) Relational Frustration
Every relationship of any significance or meaning is going to draw frustration. There are no two sinners who are skillful enough to tip-toe around the debris of the Fall without eventually stepping on something sharp. It may not be an explosive trodding like it is for the less relationally-coordinated, but it will still come with its share of pain.
Even when our sincere intention is to cause no relational harm, the limitations of our human understanding can so easily leave us treading on the hearts of others. Sin mars our ability to see clearly, distorting our perspectives and clouding our judgments. But even our understanding of our own distorted vision is feeble, so we often believe we have clear vision of situations that are foggier than we realize. These distorted perspectives create the recipe of response that has us communicating with a hurtful mixture of truth and error. A mixture of frustration that can turn even the most cherished relationship into a cocktail of confusion.
The Bible tells us that pride is always linked with contention (Prov 13:10). I face the raw reality of this truth every time I walk through the frustration of a broken relationship with others or with myself. Pride is always involved. Every. Single. Time. It's pride that isn't willing to accept the distortion of our perspectives and limitations of our understanding. Convinced we are standing on relational truth, it's pride that has us refusing to put ourselves in the shoes of another to see their perspective. Convinced we are right, we don't come to the table as a learner who asks questions and seeks to gain understanding. Convinced we see the motivation of another clearly, we don't come to the table as a humble learner but as a prosecuting attorney and ruling judge.
The result of this sinful pride is relational frustration for all parties involved. Frustration over misunderstanding, and frustration over being misunderstood. Frustration over willful ignorance, and frustration over the assumption of willful ignorance. Frustration over selfishness, and frustration over the accusation of selfishness. Frustration over the forcing of communication, and frustration over the refusal of communication.
This frustration is inevitable. But when our response is to go to the Cross and embrace the message of the gospel in humility, Christ enables us to come to the relational table with a grip on grace that has us dying to ourselves and living for others. With gentle love, He takes the cloak of His righteousness and mercifully covers our prideful desires to be promoted and to be protected. A cloak of righteousness that offers enough warmth to withstand the chill of death.
3.) Personal Frustration
Sometimes the debris of the Fall that causes us to stumble most is found on the path that we walk alone. Without any provocation from another, our own mind, body and soul can be sources of deep frustration. It's why it's terribly cruel and arrogant to ever compare our own victorious striving in this earthly life against the failings of another. We have no meaningful understanding of their depth of inborn brokenness or of the measure of grace that God's chosen to distribute. The struggles and failings of others should do nothing but bring us to our knees with cries for grace needed and praise for grace given.
Residing at the pinnacle of personal frustration, I find several of my dear friends struggling through the pain of bodily disease. I grieve with them over loss and I rage with them over sin, but most importantly I rejoice with them over the hope of the redemption of their broken bodies of decay. I have friends who are struggling through the raw pain and often-misunderstood heartache of mental illness. I grieve and rage and rejoice with them, too. There is no part of us that isn't touched by the debris of the Fall, and for some that debris has done damage that extends beyond the limits of our imagination. It's our arrogance that us humanly defining the extent of that damage, pridefully declaring where it begins and where it ends. It's our arrogance that us pridefully assuming the wounds of another can be healed with the bandage of a Bible verse and the suave of genuine worship.
God desires the deepest affection of our hearts. He desires that we yearn to be with Him and to experience deliverance from these bodies of sin and decay. The frustration we experience in this life is a vital part of His beautiful story of redemption. To feel frustration isn't just part of being sexual, it's part of being spiritual. We are a broken and frustrated people. But praise God, we are held together in joyful hope by the love and grace of our Sovereign Redeemer.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. We yearn for Your return!