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At Your Wit's End

How many times a day do you get frustrated? Lots? It happens so easily, doesn’t it? Driving along, you come across bumper-to-bumper traffic, which makes you late for an appointment. Or your pen runs out of ink at the wrong time, or the battery in your car dies, or the supermarket closes just as you pull into the parking lot. I’m sure you can think of lots of experiences like this.


There’s just no escaping it. All of us, one way or another, must deal with the problem of frustration. No matter what kind of life you lead, plans will go wrong and opportunities will be lost. It’s just the way life is, unfortunately. I like the story of Thomas Edison who struggled to produce the incandescent light. In his laboratory he had 523 light bulbs that didn’t work. When someone said, “Think of all the time you’ve wasted,” he said, “It wasn't wasted, I found 523 ways it couldn’t be done.” He channelled his frustration positively.


Maybe you have made promises to yourself or to God not to let this be a problem, e.g. I’m going to control my temper, be nicer in traffic or I’m going on a diet. Or I’m going to be more mindful of the needs of others and be less self-centered.


This can be serious. I read of a social worker who wrote in a newspaper: “One of the reasons there is such an increase in drug use is because people find it increasingly difficult to deal with frustration. They can’t take it any more”.


How Jesus Handled Frustration


I’m interested in the way our Lord Jesus handled frustration. When frustrating things happened to him, he knew how to turn the situation into an advantage, and so can we. Let me take you back to an incident in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus received devastating news about his cousin, John the Baptist—he had been put to death.


We read in Matthew 14: 13-21:


As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed the sick.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”


But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”


“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.


“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!


Don’t Let Frustration Have the Last Word


Jesus wanted to deal with the pain and grief of the news of John, and that was fair enough. He wanted to be alone to work through his grief. But what happened next? The crowds saw where he was heading and followed him via land from many villages. In other words, they had interrupted his day and his plans.


How did Jesus respond to this? With frustration and anger? No, not at all. He used the interruption to heal those who were sick and miraculously feed a multitude. When his plans were hampered, he simply made bigger ones. What a terrific way to handle frustrating situations.


Jesus was the master at adapting and learning to use the situations which came upon him, sometimes unexpectedly. Frustration does not mean defeat. So, don’t let frustration have the last word in your life.

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