Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Frustration

I set my personal goal for Advent 2007 at devoting my prayer time to worship instead of requests. I hoped for three or four weeks without material concerns, free for unbroken quiet time.

What I've gotten, so far, has been three unexpected new projects; two others dragging on considerably longer than planned; and what seems like no end of mechanical breakdowns, delays, and "do this over" requests--all of which tempt constant wavering of my resolve to praise God continually and ask nothing for myself except spiritual growth. I should have expected it. I've heard the same story from other Christians; you make up your mind to work hard toward maturing, and suddenly half your world seems to be controlled by an intelligent force dedicated to making things difficult for you.

Maybe it is. Satan hates to see believers develop into the image of Christ, and many of our difficulties therein are attributable to his dirty work. But this raises another question: why does God, Who has the final word on whatever happens, let Satan get away with it? You would think, especially since our intention is to serve God's glory, He'd at least give us a few weeks to develop new habits before letting us be hit full force with the need to use them. No wonder we are tempted to echo St. Teresa of Avila, who is credited with having said, "Lord, no wonder You have so few friends, considering the way You treat them!"

Perhaps Peter was tempted by a similar thought as, in John 6:25-69, he heard Jesus say that the true saints of the Kingdom would not find life all free meals and smooth sailing, but would be called to total commitment and sacrifice. Perhaps he briefly considered joining those who found it easier to walk away from the whole thing. Perhaps his final decision, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," was voiced with a hint of despair, as in: "This is the best offer we've ever gotten, but it doesn't look all that great at the moment!" Every believer feels that way on occasion. Why does God seem to reward our genuine steps of commitment with hardship and struggle, without even giving us a chance to warm up first?

The question has no easy answer. But perhaps 2 Corinthians 12 sheds some light on the subject. Paul's "thorn in the flesh," a "messenger of Satan" and a source of presumably constant "torment," was sent "to keep [him] from becoming conceited" (v. 7, NIV) in the aftermath of a powerful spiritual experience. Perhaps God allows so many "growing pains" in our lives for the same reason--if it was easy to make significant progress, we might forget we couldn't do it alone (cf. John 15:4-6); begin to think ourselves as wise and capable as God; and start a prideful backslide that would undo everything that had been accomplished.

One thing is certain. However frustrating life gets, we can never use it as evidence that God doesn't love us.

The whole Incarnation--from the Nativity to the Crucifixion--is proof He does.

Sometimes I feel like Martha,
And the words I mean for prayer
Come out, "Lord, look at all I've done,
And You don't even seem to care!"

I feel like St. Teresa
On a day of pure dead ends,
And moan, "Oh, Lord, I'll never know
Why You are so hard on Your friends!"

Job sitting on the ash heap,
The thorn in the flesh of Paul,
Jeremiah ruing his day of birth--
I can sympathize with them all!

Should I rant and scream at heaven?
Should I list each gripe I know?
Should I stomp away in anger--
But where else could I ever go?

Our God is the Lord of mystery;
His ways are beyond our thought;
We never learn all His reasons--
It is not ours to say, "He ought."

Not ours to be the masters,
To look down on God above:
If you insist on knowing--know
That His scars ever say, "I love."

1 comment:

Mona said...

Katherine, this (frustration of feeling under attack) reminds me so much of when my younger son began to suffer with migrains when he was only 9 years old and there was nothing, nothing!, that could help him. My husband and I despaired of his ever being without them; the doctors tried about 12 different medicines, none of which worked. We truly could feel Job's pain in all he went through. I would've gladly taken on the suffering myself to shield my son, but God walked us through the ordeal. It took 3 years and lots of prayers, but in the end He enlightened me about the reasons behind it when in one of my Bible study classes we studied the 1st chapter of 2 Corinthians - v. 6 & 7, and 9-11 particularly. Three things emerged as reasons we humans must endure suffering (and I believe this is not just physical suffering, but emotional, spiritual and even intellectual), 1. that we may identify with others who suffer like we do and not feel alone, 2. that we will learn to rely on God, not ourselves, to deal with it, and 3. that we may help others who may suffer as we do, showing them God's path as a way of coping and become more compassionate ourselves. This was many years before our oler son went through a 10 year illness before dying, and I can tell you that had we not had the pre-runner of the other son's illness, I might have decided to die, too. But with that, God showed us how to deal with death triumphantly, knowing that it's simply a doorway to eternity with Him. It also prompted my association and work with The Compassionate Friends, bereaved parent organization, to help others as I was helped through the worst thing that can happen to a parent.
I particularly liked the quote of St. Theresa about how God treats His friends. I had to laugh. I'm sure God did, too.
Your poem carried just the right tone.
Thanks for your faithfulness.
In Christ,
Mona Follis