“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
– Matthew 18:19
The idea of frustration is a funny one. It’s a common emotional response to our will –being opposed in something. We want something to occur, that something is blocked to us, we emotionally respond to that by becoming frustrated. It’s such a common emotional response that we accept it as an inevitability, so much so that it’s officially a verb meaning ‘defeat’ as well as an adjective ‘vexation through disappointment’: one can be frustrated by having one’s plans frustrated.
Astonishing, isn’t it? The world is so used to the emotional response of frustration as a concept, that it’s decided to use the word to mean the act of defeat as well. Now that’s pessimism in action—it’s changed the language to suit it!
And make no mistake, frustration is a worldly idea. Think about it: frustration increases with the size of your desire for the blocked occurrence, and also with the size of the blockage. If you’re not so bothered about traveling down a road anyway, and there’s a sheep in the way, you’re not really that frustrated. After all, you can sit in your car and wait for the sheep to move. You’re in no rush. If, on the other hand, it’s vital, imperative that you travel down that road right this very second, but it’s completely flooded—that’s Frustration City, and you’re the newest inhabitant.
What about if you’re not that bothered, but the road is flooded? Well, it’s not so important—but it’s a nuisance, isn’t it? If you’re desperate but the sheep’s in your way? Oh, that sheep is infuriating! And so it goes on, like a perpetual seesaw, up and down, up and down. The main thing that frustration achieves (aside from truly vexing you) is ensuring that you stay precisely where you are. Your desire for movement, for action, for occurrence—none of that matters to frustration. You’re the centre of the seesaw. Frustration is your wail at lack of movement, nothing more.
Well, the Holy Spirit’s all about the power of positive thinking, which is distinct and distinguished from optimism: and brainless optimism is frustration’s flip side. Every time you’ve ever expressed frustration with something in your life, hasn’t there always been someone who said something along the lines of, “well, don’t worry! That sheep will move soon!” Optimism is still you at the centre of the seesaw, seeing your desire and your obstacle swinging up and down around you while you remain perfectly still. It’s frustration with a tortured, happy grin plastered on top.
The power of positive thinking is the art of thinking brilliantly. It’s God’s way, and God’s way is the path that Christ walked, and as Christians, we’re charged to walk that path and turn it into a road for others to follow. It’s in the name.
Thinking brilliantly means lateral thinking—thinking outside of the normal rules. It means extrapolative thinking—thinking further ahead than usual. It means empathetic thinking—compassionate, deep thinking that allows you to share the experiences of others. There’s no room for frustration or optimism when you’re thinking brilliantly. That’s not some empty aphorism intended to inspire and motivate, it’s simple fact: when you’re thinking brilliantly, standing still isn’t an option.
Instead, you’ll find another path, a way around the obstacle, or a different tack to achieve what you want. Perhaps you’ll discover that the occurrence you sought all that time isn’t necessary for you after all. Perhaps you’ll discover that the obstacle was placed there so that you could make that your new focus. The flood barring your way could be a brilliant opportunity to learn how to swim! The wonderful thing about the Spirit is that once you see the new path, the new way of thinking, you’ll be amazed you never saw it before.
All of this is marvelous, and uplifting and rich with possibility, right? But what about some practical advice for when frustration prevents you from seeing any of this, prevents you from thinking at all, brilliantly or dimmer than a 20 watt bulb with jetlag?
God comes from a place of rest. The antidote to frustration is patience; patience, and through patience, peace; peace, and through peace, joy. Remember to step back into the presence of God, to allow yourself patience to experience what is happening to you the right way. Frustration is a sign that there’s an event in your life that’s going to bring an opportunity to grow in God. There’s something you want that you can’t get. Fantastic! What’s the Holy Spirit’s opinion on that?