The Gap: Frustration and Anger
What do you do when the gap you are in feels like an old one you have been in before? The last couple weeks I have frequently felt like I just made one big circle and landed right back right where I started. You know that feeling? My thoughts quickly run between “I haven't grown.” “I will never get past this.” “Why does this still bother me?” “Shouldn't I be over this by now?” Almost like a song stuck on repeat. Thankfully, with God in my life I know that emotions, and even these thoughts are not always truth or dictators. Emotions simply are indicators.
As an athlete you must learn to manage your emotions in order to keep to the task/workout/race/game at hand. Athletes get emotionally charged any time results are not happening in the timeline deemed appropriate. It’s hard wired to expect certain results from the efforts put in. But in learning to use those emotions to fuel correction, to fuel passion, breakthrough does happen. In life however, the stakes are much higher, if you can’t manage your emotions they will manage you and it will be a much more unpleasant process to fulfilling your destiny.
So what are emotions (specifically frustration and anger which are the emotions of “the gap”) indicating? How do we know when they are not the truth?
Let me first start off with addressing how emotions do not always reflect truth. Emotions often get us to feel frustrated or discouraged into believing we are not ever going to advance. While Christianity is not passive (you either are advancing or retreating), these emotions come up to give us the feedback we need as to which direction we are headed. God promises us in Proverbs 15:24 that “The way of life winds upward for the wise.” Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Once we choose to follow Him our path is forever upward. Not down, not side-ways but upward. Note scripture does not say it’s a straight shot up. Rather I picture it more like a big spiral staircase. I’m advancing but at certain points I may circle back to the same season or problem, just in a bit higher position. As long as I’m with God the direction is guaranteed. It is His promise.
Now it is clear that with God we are always are advancing. What are the feelings of frustration and anger indicators of? In the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend, they state that anger is an indicator that our boundaries have been violated. Frustration is an emotional response that comes with opposition. Anger and internal frustration (not from conditions outside of an individual) energizes us to want to solve a problem as well as protect those we love. Emotions have purpose but must be properly managed.
Since my emotions, specifically anger/frustration have been heightened lately it points to the fact that I have to address my boundaries. It is not time to be mad at the situation but rather to use the energy and awareness the emotion is providing me to come up with a solution. The more I bring the general sense of frustration and anger to God, the clearer it is that the root issue is a matter of my heart. These emotions simply are there to highlight what walls remain around pieces of my heart that I have yet to break down and allow God in as ruler and Lord. My obedience to Him has become conditional. Which really is not obedience at all, but merely reluctant compliance.
How do you and I breakdown the walls (even those we thought were already torn down) to let God in? Surrender to let your life reflect more of Him and less of you. We get to choose to trade up compliant behavior for an obedient spirit. That is the solution to the frustration. It is simple to write, but the application is much more daunting. It all starts with the discipline of prayer. Whenever my frustration peaks and I finally slow down enough to connect in and pray to God the Holy Spirit’s response is often like this:
“I know you feel frustrated, will you let me help you? Bring it all to me. I will bring you peace in your mind and heart. Dig into Phil 4:6-7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“Your heart and mind is guarded by MY peace, but it begins with prayer and cultivating a grateful heart. You will face things that challenge your peace, but I have promised you my peace even when they come. What have you taken back that you now are feeling so frustrated?”
God who loves me will correct me every time as I see how I have taken back control and stepped into a part of the role He wants to fill in my life. It is a partnership we have a part to play to, but learning those boundaries takes time. What is our role then with God when we get frustrated/angry? The scripture clearly states: pray and cultivate a grateful heart. God’s promise and response is His peace will move in. This peace acts as the guardian of our hearts and minds. He can’t guard what we haven’t given over to Him full Lordship of. It is in my best interest to release to God my agenda as that is how you make room for trust. I can partner with Him as I align myself to His plan versus pulling in a different direction or wasting energy trying to convince Him of a better route.
As we tug away from the lordship of God frustration begins to grow. This is because the Holy Spirit in us and our soul no longer are working together. You can see it in team sports all the time when division begins. Its like watching a slow train wreck. The thing is in this case we are always the player “dropping the ball.” We must regroup (pray) and go back to what we know to be true (gratitude) and that is how momentum is built back up for the “win.”
When we find ourselves in the midst of something frustrating or when anger is rising up or we become mad at ourselves at how we got here; what if we decided to see these feelings as a good thing? We decide that when anger and frustration rise up we then see it as God pointing out to us that it is time for a refresher in prayer and gratitude. As we pray and give thanks to Him peace comes, and God’s presence is right there with us. Is it not a much better place to be there than fueling the cycle of frustration and anger in a situation that is out of our control to change anyway?
As I have begun to do this, not just to go through the motions, but laying my heart bare before God in payer change already has taken place. Giving thanks to Him for what He is doing in my life it settles my restless heart and mind to a place where I can finally see the solution and begin to take steps to walk it out. I challenge you to do the same: stop anger and frustration in its path by seeing it for God’s original intent a course correction. Begin to really pray and cultivate a grateful heart. Then you get the opportunity to share what God does in your life in response to this choice with those in your world. I believe the impact of this decision will make the road in “the gap” that much more joyful and encouraging.