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Frustrated of God
Markus Piercy-Reins















For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the ONE who subjected it.

Romans 8:20

Let’s be honest, right? At the beginning – after God steps into our lives – we’re in this elated state of joy after experiencing His power touching and changing us. And quite right, it’s no emotional hype - the core of our whole being has been changed. We love Him and adore Him and if asked to lay down our lives for Him we’d joyfully agree to do so without hesitation.

However, the longer we follow Him, the more we have puzzling experiences which leave us in doubt as to whether what we felt before were nothing more but an illusion.

I can tell you from my own experience that the closer you come to Him and the more you know about Him, the more you will experience this frustration … because He never does what you expect Him to do.

Have you ever heard that God chooses frustrations to bless us with? Surely not – but the Bible is full of it! Let’s look at some examples.

Abraham:
God has promised Abraham to make him into a nation. How does this turn out? We all know. Abraham waits and waits … waits decade after decade… and still has no child, least of all a son!
Frustrating, isn’t it? The biological clock ticks relentlessly and when ninety years old Sarah hears she’s to have a son in a year’s time, she can only laugh … a sarcastic, frustrated laugh of shattered hopes after decades of desperate waiting.

So Abraham gets his son in the end, only to be told to sacrifice him to God on Mount Moriah! Trustingly, up he goes, in the full knowledge that he’s not only about to sacrifice his and his wife’s happiness, but also (let’s keep in mind, that Ishmael was sent away by Abraham himself before) their security in old age.

Frustrating? Yes - but God doesn’t spare even His beloved friend and the ‘father of all believers’ this frustration!

Moses:
God appears to Moses in the burning bush and calls him to free Israel from Egyptian slavery … and even shows him miracles to perform so that Israel will believe in him … only for Moses to get sick on the way, to the point of death. We then read that it’s God who, apparently completely irrationally, moves to kill Moses while he’s is on his way to obey and do just that which God has told him to do. (Ex. 4:24)

‘Frustrating, isn’t it? Where’s the sense in first calling someone, only to kill him when he does what is wanted of him?

Israel/Benjamin:
In Judges 19 and 20 we read a horrible story. A woman gets raped to death. All Israel gathers to punish the perpetrators … but the tribe of Benjamin protects them. So all of Israel goes to Bethel and asks the Lord what they should do … if they should make war on Benjamin for acting against God’s Law … The Lord says, ‘Yes’ ,… only for them to get trounced by Benjamin and come away with 22,000 dead. In pain, crying with frustration and grief, they ask the Lord again and again the answer is a ‘Yes’, … only for them to get beaten a second time, with another 18,000 dead! Given that Benjamin only had 26,000 men, how can they manage to kill 40,000 who, according to their best knowledge and conscience, are acting on God’s word?
It’s frustrating, utterly frustrating! I’ve never heard a sermon on this story!

Ecclesiastes:
Apropos sermon! Have you ever heard a sermon from Ecclesiastes – a book written by wise King Solomon? Read it … and get confronted with the frustration of someone far wiser than normal human beings, who, in spite of all his brilliance, still has to face the impossibility of being able to successfully implement it his own personal life for his own benefit … although it’s God who’s given him this wisdom in the first place!

What’s the frustrating conclusion he comes to? “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!”
Read the frustrating passage in Ecc. 2:17-26 and you’ll know why we hardly ever hear a sermon from Ecclesiastes. It confronts us with the frustrating truth about our utter inability to do anything right for our pleasure – but of course, sermons always have to be uplifting and comforting, so it’s better to avoid all this complicated, frustrating ‘stuff’, and preach what fits our self-chosen image of ‘God’ in a better way.

Naaman:
He wants healing from his incurable disease, only to get frustrated by being commanded to dip himself seven times in the River Jordan. It’s only thanks to his servants he gets healed at all in the end. (2.Kings 5)

Isaiah:
What would you do if the Lord told you to walk naked and barefoot for three years? Guess what, this is what Isaiah does on the word of the Lord! Don’t believe me? Read Is. 20!
The Lord doesn’t seem to care about what seems modest and pious in our eyes, does He? Don’t you secretly hope He never gives you an order like to Isaiah? Yep, it’s His frustrations again!

Hosea:
Starting to read the prophet Hosea, you get frustrated right from the second verse. This ‘Man of God’ gets an order from the Lord, to marry a prostitute … and to re-marry her after she betrays him with other men. Would God give such orders today? If He told you to do this, nobody would believe you, would they? Wouldn’t everyone exhort you to turn away from your ‘lusting after the flesh’? How can a HOLY God give SUCH orders to His devout servants? Frustrating!

Mary:
She’s a godly young girl! How ‘loving’ is it of God to deliver this innocent to scorn and public ostracism because He makes her conceive a child, begotten of the Holy Spirit before she’s actually married? Has this God no feelings? How can He choose such a method? Why doesn’t He stick to His own Law? Who will ever believe Mary’s story that an ‘angel’ has spoken to her, saying that the power of the Holy Spirit has come upon her, causing her to conceive without the influence of any human male, let alone Joseph? Wouldn’t they laugh at her… call her a shameless whore … despise and spurn her and her offspring? Frustrating questions, aren’t they? But God has plans which we are unable to conceive of. His ways are higher than our ways, and He doesn’t always explain Himself to us.

Later, at the wedding to Kana, Mary herself has a brilliant idea, only to hear from Jesus, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” (Jo. 2) Couldn’t He have said it a little more friendly and respectful way? Why does he call her ‘woman’ and not mother? Shouldn’t He, of all people, be the model son?
And let’s not forget the utter pain, frustration and delusion she must feel as a mother when she sees her son, the ‘Son of God’ – the Messiah of Israel – no matter what miracles and wonders He’d performed previously - helpless; skewered to a cross, dying in agony like a common criminal!

Jesus:
Yes, even the One we adore and identify ourselves with, is a scandal. He appears to be a godly rabbi – and yet He doesn’t seem to think it even mildly inappropriate when he is found by His disciples, alone at a well, with a Samaritan woman of more than questionable virtue.

What would you think of a man who tells people to be cannibalistic vampires and eat his flesh and drink His blood? You only have to read John 6:51ff and then imagine a real person saying this today to understand what it meant at those times.

And it isn’t only the unbelievers He confronts with frustrating words and actions … His own family, as well as His disciples, had some extremely frustrating situations to cope with. Naming them all would make this article unnecessarily long!

We so often read Jesus’ words in abstract and don’t see them with the impact of lived, practical reality. By this an illusionary, theoretical construction is created which we call the ‘Christian Faith’. We feel comfortable in preaching the greatest sermons, writing the most wonderful books, but few of these carry the import and weight of the frustrating force of reality that people were faced with in Jesus’ presence.

Don’t you know that all our ‘Christian standards’ of a devoted and holy life have absolutely nothing to do with following a living God who has set His mind on frustrating everything that we call right – to make us live simply by what He calls right?

If He was called a drunkard and immoral man; having fun with tax-collectors, prostitutes and sinners … I wonder; what do they call you?

There’s a deeper meaning behind what Jesus said in Matt 5:11-12:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Peter:
He genuinely loves Jesus, but his Master doesn’t care a jot about his feelings when He calls him a satan (Mark 8:33) and after Peter’s declaration that he won’t leave Him even if everyone else leaves Him, Jesus doesn’t spare him embarrassment and frustration when He says,“Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” (Matt. 26:34)

“But I thought that God only encouraged us? I thought ‘negative’ words aren’t from God and must be rejected? “

Jesus wasn’t in the least concerned about this. After Peter goes through the heart-wrenching experiences of his own failure and the crucifixion of all his hopes, Jesus tells him, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (Jo. 21:18) ‘Comfy’ outlook, isn’t it?

In my last article 'Impossible!', I pointed out the frustrations Peter had to go through while following ‘The Scandal’. He really had had a hard time staying on this very ‘narrow path’ – as you would too, if you followed the living Christ and not the image man has created of Him!

Even after Pentecost, Peter had a high opinion about his moral standards and his flawless observance of the Law… but his Master didn’t spare him deep frustration even then … and allowed him to be quite rightly put in his place and publicly exposed by Paul (Gal. 2:11ff).

So much for the biblical examples! I’m sure you can add to this list from your own experience.

Jesus said, ‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.’ (Jo. 12:26)
If He is the ‘Rock of Offence’ (Ro. 9:33) frustrating everyone, how is it possible for your life not to bear the hallmark of an authentic life following Him – frustrations?

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate!
These are God’s very own words in Isaiah 29:14 which Paul quotes in 1.Cor. 1:19… So what about our rituals, our nice, tidy Sunday Church services, fancy dresses and good manners?

Do they qualify us as servants of the living God who wants to use us as ‘ambassadors for Christ’ (2.Cor. 5:20) – this Christ who had the infuriating habit of frustrating everybody (except the ones to whom God gave it not to be offended by Him (Matt. 13:11)… although they didn’t have it easy with Him either!)?

I understand the unease you’re probably feeling at the moment.

We don’t hear about this in today’s Christian environment where gentle Jesus, ‘meek and mild’ is always this wonderful, helping, loving and kind ideal of all we’ve secretly dreamt of, who is only there to make us feel good.

I’ve met believers who’ve got enraged with God after finding out about the reality of God’s frustrations … even calling Him a sadist!

But those are not the only ones I’ve met! Hallelujah! There are a very few that in spite of all their frustrations genuinely love God!

They’re not crazy … and no, they’re not weird masochists who love being tortured!

They even ask Him to continue this work of frustration… and when it shows up in their lives they embrace it and even give Him thanks for it. Right, and as I said before, they’re not insane!
They display a mindset we find with Job: Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him (Job 13:15)… and even say: Though He slay me, yet I love Him!

They display what Paul describes in Romans 5:3-5:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance; character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

We often think that being filled with the Holy Spirit means ecstatic joy, speaking in tongues and supernatural miracles … but what about this one; glorying in our sufferings or frustrations because of the EVIDENCE OF HIS LOVE in us?

Normally all of us run from sufferings and frustrations, right? Even having a new heart filled with His Spirit, doesn’t prevent us from doing so, does it?
So, what is the evidence of His love being poured into our hearts, if not the fact of asking for His frustrations rather than having our own pleasures?

If Job in Old Testament times had this attitude of heart, what about us today? Shouldn’t we who profess to have a renewed heart and are even filled with His Spirit, outdo Job in loving God?

Isn’t this the acid test of a renewed heart, brimming over with love? – It’s IMPOSSIBLE that this could ever come from a human source.

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. – 1.Cor 1:27-30

This nullification of everything we hold dear is what frustrates us, and this has to be so:
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence (gr. skandalon): and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. – Ro. 9:33

Why?

…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by (its own) wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. – 1.Cor. 1:21

And it’s this ‘foolishness of God’ that causes frustration! In Romans 8:20 we read that we have no choice in the matter. It’s the will of God - who subjected us to frustration! But not this alone! The closer you come to Him, the more you get transformed into His likeness (2.Cor. 3:18)… and yes, the more you also become a frustration for those around you.

We have succeeded in pouring what we think is our wisdom and intelligence into what God has said and so created a softened gospel that lacks ‘bite’, lacks offence … a gospel that in its true form, makes the foolish frustration of becoming ‘naked’ before God and low before others and in our own eyes, an absolute necessity.

We preach a Jesus but if we are honest, what we preach is not the ‘Rock of Offence’ with whom we claim to identify ourselves.

We need to repent, ask for His mercy and grace and for opened eyes to see. How can we expect His power in our lives if we exclude the will of The One who determined that foolishness and frustration should be the sources of our salvation and sanctification?


In His Service


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