Matthew 17: 14-17
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”
I don’t know if you’ve caught this already from previous blogs, but despite my typical sunny disposition, I am not a saint. I am not an unlimited wellspring of positivity, and my husband says I sigh… a lot. Sigh. I think it’s just my body trying to remember to breathe. You might say I am a person prone to well, what’s the word for it? Constant frustration! Have you ever been around a two year old? Fed a toddler spaghetti, chocolate milk, or left a child unattended with a water bottle? Heard your child chanting from another room, “A mess, a mess, a mess!”? Have you put socks on a child over 6 times that day, changed more than 1,000 diapers? I’ve been mothering toddlers for over six years now and let me say, I’ve probably sighed enough piles of frustration to build Mt. Saint Helens (yes, I chose a volcano). And while my stories sound humorous from a knowing grandparent stance, the everyday realities of having one’s plans and efforts frustrated is really not something that’s always easy to laugh about.
Like you, if you’ve chosen to follow Jesus, my life is not my own. Sigh. I sometimes find it hard to give up. My work is not glamorous or even paid. Sigh. My day to day moments are full of interruptions, silly situations, and eye-roll worthy antics. Antics that, at times, I could do without. Attitudes I’d rather not console, and limited time to console my own. Sigh. I am not in control of my schedule. Sigh.
Your life might look different than mine, but I can imagine you know what frustration feels like. Frustration of school closures, entire routines changed, and a lack of information. Filling out a complicated medical form, seeing ten different doctors, having to change your diet, grocery shopping, or driving at rush hour, being misunderstood by your co-worker, boss, friend, or spouse. Have you ever been swimming in debt, unemployed, unable to see anything positive your future might hold? Have you been left overwhelmed at the markets that crashed and depleted your savings for the future? Or perhaps you’ve been left waiting, and waiting some more for the spouse that never came, the pregnancy test that never turned blue, the career that collapsed, your health that never healed. Frustrations small, large, short-lived, and chronic, we all face them.
Gratefully, unlike the typical portrayal of a plaster smiled Christian, the Bible doesn’t sugarcoat frustration and or skip over it to forced happiness. Life is not always positive and encouraging. Patriarchs wrestle with God, and argue over His plans. The Psalms are full of lament and discouragement, and even dare say- complaining. Even Jesus gets frustrated again and again with the Jewish leaders, the nation’s unbelief, and his disciples. In Matthew 17: 14-17, Jesus declares in frustration, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” He is deeply upset that his disciples were unable to heal a child who was prone to seizures. He explains to them that their faith was too small (apparently smaller than a mustard seed for he said a mustard seed size faith could have moved a mountain!) Yes, even Jesus gets frustrated. His cry on the cross is (quoting from the Psalms) “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” He does not sanitize his negative emotions or try to put a positive spin on his pain.
How is this possible? Why is he not always joyful, or thinking only about what is noble, true, and right? Perhaps in our Western modern ‘enlightened’ minds, we have quarantined our full range of emotions? But Jesus does not avoid pain or frustration. He is able to walk into it fully. Confident that even railing against his heavenly Father for abandonment was not outside the threshold of giving Him glory.
Just as my children have cried to me in frustration and called out for help, with unfettered wails of unfairness, hunger, pain, in need of assistance to accomplish their deeply needed goals of getting something unstuck from their bare foot, or their inability to open a door, or making sure they get their turn- we may cry out to God. HELP. And with the ear of a loving, compassionate father, He will come to our aid. He will not mock us for our frustrations, or belittle us for not bucking up and accomplishing it on our own., He will be endeared that in our time of distress, we came asking for Him. He may give us what we want, or He might give us what we need, or He might just stroke our cheek and smile that knowing-smile that He alone knows what is for our ultimate good.
God, I’m frustrated. Sometimes so deeply and too proud to admit it. Sometimes I’m frustrated, and I can’t even see my need for help. Will you help me anyway? Help. Grant me what I need in my troubled spirit, my troubled relationships, my troubled health, my troubled goals, my troubled nation, because you love me, and you are good even in the pain and frustration. Amen
Gabriele Replogle has enjoyed attending Commonway Church for the past ten years. She is grateful for the church body that, over time, became a home and family to her when her family of origin is far away. She enjoys laughing with friends, encouraging others with humor and vulnerability, and almost always colors outside the lines.
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