Just the other day I was listening to a fascinating (and somewhat gross) report about “natural flavor”—that nebulous phrase that makes its way onto the ingredient lists I often scan. Food scientist Sue Ebeler said something that floored me: flavors work at a “parts per trillion level” and “that’s a few molecules in a swimming pool.” Just a few molecules can influence the flavor of thousands of gallons of water!
That got me thinking about Bible passages like this: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” (Ephesians 4:31). Like a pungent flavor permeating food, just a tiny bit of bitterness can permeate our beings, influencing our outlook, our relationships, and our spiritual vitality. Resentment and pessimism can sneak up on us, infiltrating our lives in ways we may not even recognize.
Because, let’s be honest: life can hurt. It can deeply disappoint us. It can profoundly frustrate us. And when it does, we have a choice: Will we go the way of bitter resentment? Or will we choose a path of hope?
Feeling frustrated or disappointed is not wrong in and of itself. In fact, Ecclesiastes observed that that this is the common experience of humankind: we often “live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry” (Ecclesiastes 5:17). In Psalms, the descendents of Korah expressed profound despair: “I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out, blinded by tears of pain and frustration” (Psalm 88:9, The Message). The psalmist Asaph, noting the easy and successful life of others in comparison to his own trials, said, “I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside” (Psalm 73:21).
When we experience deep frustration—as each of us inevitably will—how will we react? Will we turn away from God toward the lure of pessimism, resentment, grumbling, and despair? Or will we, instead, determine to turn toward God?
In this issue of Today’s Christian Woman, we’re exploring what it looks like to cling to God even as we grapple with frustration:
- In “Frustrated with God?” Esther Fleece unpacks what Scripture says about our experience of painful feelings and explores the healing power of honest lament.
- In “Disappointed? Celebrate Anyway,” Ginny Hrushka shares how she’s learning to embrace the life she has right now.
- In “The (Sometimes Frustrating) Gift of Sex,” Dr. Juli Slattery shares candid insights about facing sexual struggles in marriage.
- In “You Can’t Outsource Evangelism,” Brittany Bergman shares how feeling disappointed by her church led her to channel that angst into a greater commitment to live out her faith.
- And in “Healthy Discontentment,” Ashly Stage digs into how God can use discontentment in positive ways that lead to spiritual growth.
Turning toward God when we’re frustrated doesn’t mean glossing over our pain or disappointment or simply wishing it away. In fact, in their pain and discouragement, both Asaph in Psalm 73 and the descendants of Korah in Psalm 88 provide compelling examples of taking their pain, raw and honest, straight to God. When we’re frustrated or disappointed like they were, we can find ever more reason to cling to God in determination and authentic prayer.
Does that prayer magically make it all better? No—but we can find, in him, “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7). Turning to God in honesty, trust, reliance, lament, and determination may not always “feel good.” It may feel like life is out of your control (it is) or like you can’t see clearly (you can’t). But it roots out the soul-poison of bitterness. It sets you on the path of hope.
When Life Hurts
This slideshow is only available for subscribers.
Please log in or subscribe to view the slideshow.