Tag Archives: frustration


“I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”
1 Kings 19:10, MSG*

Elijah’s conversation with God comes after my favourite of his exploits, when he taunted the prophets of Baal in a public showdown. (You can read that story in 1 Kings 18.)

That event may be the pinnacle of Elijah’s career. And God showed up in power. Yet here the prophet is, not long after, running scared from evil Queen Jezebel.

Surely the God of fire and miracles could handle a vicious queen and her henchmen, but Elijah isn’t thinking about God.

Look at what he says—and he says it twice in the chapter—he’s thinking about himself.

The mighty prophet of God is having a self-pity party.

I’m not pointing any fingers. I’ve been there, and for far less reason. You probably have too.

Commentators say Elijah was depressed, that it was a personality thing. Maybe so. But this time I read the story I saw something else.

I think Elijah started wearing too much of the responsibility. He lived a high-profile, dangerous life, speaking God’s words of judgement to a king who didn’t want to hear them. What he said, and what he did, revealed God.

It was God’s power that burned the drenched sacrifice on the rebuilt stone altar, but did Elijah get too involved in shouting at the priests of Baal? Did he start taking the fight too personally?

Don’t we do that sometimes? God’s doing His part, but all of a sudden we’re carrying loads He never asked us to carry?

In his hurt, though, Elijah shows us what to do. He goes to God. He gets alone with God, and even though he spills out his whole “poor me” rant, Elijah hears God. God meets him there. And Elijah doesn’t leave that place until God sends him out.

Mighty and holy God, You are well able to work through Your people when we obey You, but sometimes we start looking at the work more than at the One who sends us. Moses and Elijah had these moments, and we do too. In Your patient mercy, please help us see when we go off-track, and please draw us back to Yourself to sit in quiet and renew our spirits. Teach us to trust You in all things instead of trying to forge ahead in our own power. Teach us to rest in You.  

Instead of a song this week, I have two other links for you:

At Choose NOW Ministries, Amber Frank talks about Finding time for the One who matters most.

And at Christian Work at Home Ministries, Jill Hart shares a video devotional about Missing the Point.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Writer’s Angst

I have two unpublished novel manuscripts that I’m about to revise yet again. With most of the publishers who handle Christian fiction based in the US, it’s hard for a Canadian or other nationality of writer to get accepted. (And do we really fit into a market largely aimed at a culture that’s at least subtly different from our own? But that’s another story or post… or rant.)

After a critique session at Write! Canada, one of the faculty graciously offered a phone-coaching session to help me see the bigger picture for my fiction. Where do I fit? What’s my target audience? My purpose? My message?

As we talked last week, some of that came together, but afterward I felt totally frustrated and out of my depth, ready to chuck it all and just write for fun. I’m not a big-picture person, my brain isn’t wired that way. How am I supposed to come up with this stuff?

Wait a minute, this was the same discouragement I’d carried with me to Write! Canada this year—where God set me straight to seek Him first instead of the work. Where I repented and thanked Him and renewed my joy.

No way am I going back there again. Instead, I prayed.

My thoughts flashed to Moses’ “Must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10b, NIV*) where he struck the rock and blew it big time.

Moses-style frustration has been my problem before. This time, seeing the connection broke the pattern and helped me get back on the path.

God knows the target audience for my fiction, if there is one. I don’t have to supply it, I just need to ask Him. He knows the best genre for me too, and He can help me recognize any signposts He has for me along the way. It’s not about me, and it’s not up to me alone.

Note to self: Stop trying to do God’s job.

Seek Him first.

Who’s Bringing the Water?

[Moses] and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”
Numbers 20:10, NIV*

When God called him to lead the Israelites to freedom, Moses was a man deeply aware of his own inadequacy for the task. God gave him power to do miraculous signs, and promised to be with him, but he still resisted.

Fast-forward to the Desert of Zin. Moses has led the people out of Egypt, they’ve balked at entering the Promised Land and so God has sentenced them to roam the wilderness until the faithless generation has died. Moses and Aaron’s sister Miriam has died. The people—surprise!—are complaining because there’s no water.

Never mind the fact that God has provided water before now.

Moses has relied on God’s power every step of the way. He has stood between God and the people when God was angry with them, but this time it’s Moses who’s angry, and he loses it. One frustration-laden sentence, one whack of staff against stone, and Moses forfeits his own entrance into the Promised Land.

God said it was “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites.” (Numbers 20:12, NIV*)

It looks like such a little slip to me, but God has the full picture and is the righteous judge. One thing I see here is “must we” bring the water? It’s God who supplied the power and the water, but Moses is taking on the responsibility, the burden—the credit—for the miracle.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “seek God first” and from that perspective I see an application to my own life. When there’s a need or a demand, the natural human instinct is to meet it in my own strength and from my own resources.

God wants me to look to Him first, and to respond out of His equipping… His strength, His wisdom, His resources. If I try to do it on my own, I’m getting in the way like Moses did. And I get the whole “Moses burnout complex and attitude” if I’m not careful. Not pretty.

Creator and Sustainer God, You never meant us to rely on ourselves, but we do. You said to trust in You with all our hearts, and not to rely on our own understanding. Forgive me for taking on more than You intended, and teach me to seek You first in everything. Help me trust You enough to honour You as holy in the sight of those around me. Help me rely on Your provision instead of trying to manufacture enough resources on my own.

Here’s a light-hearted look at Moses’ mission: Larry Norman’sMoses in the Wilderness” set to flannelgraph images. Love it!

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Not We Ourselves

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Psalm 100:3, NIV

When life gets busy, responsibilities crowd, do you feel pressure to keep pace, to meet every demand on your own? Like Moses, when the people in the desert complained again about thirst and he cried, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?

God told him to speak to the rock, but Moses was so angry he struck it—twice—and although the water came, Moses lost his chance to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 20:1-13 tells the whole story.)

After all Moses’ obedience, this seems a trifling thing, yet it was clearly a big deal to God. I think it’s because of the “Must we” that took responsibility—and therefore credit—for the miracle.

Moses hardly intended it that way, but that’s how it came out. And sometimes that’s how I feel when the pressure’s on and there’s not enough of me to go around. I forget there’s enough of God.

Somehow today’s one verse from a short psalm puts it all back in perspective for me. I’m not the real authority. Everything does not rest on me, no matter how it feels. (A footnote in the NIV says and we are his can be translated and not we ourselves. “It is he who made us, and not we ourselves” – that makes it even clearer.)

I can trust in God, because He is good. His love endures forever. (Click that link and you’ll see the NIV declares this phrase 41 times.)

Renewed perspective gives me a quietness and a confidence—from a psalm that tells us to shout to God.

Father, forgive me for getting distracted and relying on myself. You are God, and greatly to be praised. Help me trust You not to overload me with more than You want to accomplish through me. Help me stick with what You give and not to ignore it and try to do my own thing—or to cram my own interests in there with what You say is enough. You’re the Shepherd, I’m the sheep. And You are the Good Shepherd. Keep me close to Your side.

Here’s a good, soul-quieting song from Steven Curtis Chapman: “Be Still and Know.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Can you relate?

Do you ever have those days when you’re frustrated, trying to cram too much into too little time, pushing your agenda instead of God’s? Check out God’s girl’s post, “Prying My Fingers Loose.”

What if I’m the Offender?

Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
1 Peter 4:1a-2, MSG*

Last week I wrote about our call to be a blessing to others, and followed it up with a comment about an experience I’d had with someone who was not a blessing to me. The LORD used that experience to show me how important it is to be a blessing.

Silly me, thought I got the message. Until that very evening, when I still hadn’t had time to do some writing I’d wanted to finish the day before… and not one but two people I care about wanted to spend time with me.

I remembered Peter’s words about trusting everything to God to work it out in His timing (1 Peter 2:23). But I didn’t really let it go, and as my frustration grew, I definitely wasn’t a blessing to anybody.

God proved His grace to me and got me back on track in the way these people (who are two of the sweetest folks I know) each showed extra care to me as my frustration grew. For once I readjusted quickly and didn’t spoil the whole evening, but I did miss out on some quality time. God is growing me, but it sure is a slow process.

Next morning I went back to the blessing verses again, to make myself feel worse or to find help I don’t know, but it did both. 1 Peter 3:15a says, “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master.” MSG*

I read on into chapter 4 and found the verses above. “…free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.” This is exactly the opposite of what I experienced: the frustration of not getting to my agenda. God wanted me to work on relationships, but I wanted to work on writing.

Father, Help me commit this day to You, to follow Jesus’ example and trust Your leading. Help me keep my heart at attention, in adoration before Jesus Christ, my Master, and to live free to pursue what You want instead of being tyrannized by what I want. Thank You for your grace and forgiveness.

Sometimes we all need Bebo Norman’s “Disappear” to be our prayer.

*The Message MSG Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson