Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions
It was Mark Twain who once said, “I have known a lot of troubles in my life, most of which never happened”.
A man was driving his car down a desolate, lonely road one evening. It was raining, and suddenly he hears the ‘thump thump’ sound. He had a flat tyre. Realising there was no service station for miles around, he gets out of the car to fix it himself. He starts to get the jack out of the boot with rain pouring down, and he sees there is no jack handle. He was furious, and decided in desperation he would need to walk miles and find help.
As he walks he says to himself, They probably won’t have a jack handle to sell—and if they do, I’ll have to pay a fortune. On and on he walks, getting more stressed by the minute until he finally reaches a service station. A friendly young man greets him, Good evening, sir. Can I help you? The traveller was in no mood for polite comments, Well, do you have a jack handle?
Well, as matter of fact we do, the attendant replies. And the traveller screams at him, Well, you can take that jack handle and do what you like with it.
Avoid Anger and Frustration
He, as we say, ‘lost the plot’ because of his own built-up frustrations and anger. Maybe you’ve been guilty of something similar. I know I have.
Psalm 37:8 (NET) says, “Do not be angry and frustrated! Do not fret! That only leads to trouble!” Fret means to be agitated or troubled. The Bible says this only leads to trouble. This is about anger, worry or envying others—something which is a common problem for many of us. Why then do we so easily become troubled, bothered, and irritated—sometimes over petty things that we should take in our stride? Thinking for a few minutes before reacting is a better way to handle life.
Don’t become so angry and upset that you, too, want to do evil. (Psalm 37:8 – ERV)
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One of my favourite Christian authors is Minister John Ortberg. In his book The Life You Always Wanted, he explains how he gets life wrong sometimes. You may relate to this rather well:
I look in on my children as they sleep at night, [and] I think of the kind of father I want to be. I want to create moments of magic, I want them to remember laughing until the tears flow…I want to have slow, sweet talks with them as they’re getting ready to close their eyes. I want to chase fireflies with them, teach them to play tennis, have food fights, and hold them and pray for them in a way that makes them feel cherished.
I look in on them and I remember how the day really went. I remember how they were trapped in a fight over [a game] and I walked out of the room because I didn’t want to spend the energy needed to teach them how to resolve conflict. I remember how my daughter spilled her drink at dinner and I yelled at her as if she’d revealed some deep character flaw; I yelled at her even though I spill things all the time and no one yells at me; I yelled at her—to tell the truth—because I’m big and she’s little and I can get away with it. I remember how at nights I didn’t have slow, sweet talks, but merely rushed the children off to bed so I could have more time to myself. I’m disappointed, not just with my life as a father. I am disappointed with my life as a husband, friend, neighbour and human being in general.
This is an honest appraisal there of Ortberg’s frustration of not being a better father and husband. And we have felt many frustrations in life. If you were to sit down and write out all the frustrations you’ve had, you could fill many pages. Frustrations range from minor irritations like losing your car keys or having an annoying cold to the major anxieties of major failure towards a goal like getting married, getting a decent job, finding health or owning a house.
An Alternative to Feeling Frustrated
But whether it is a minor irritation or a major frustration, it is not a pleasant emotion in any magnitude! I for one have never met anyone who enjoyed being frustrated. Frustration can lead us into making bad decisions, thus making the problem even worse, like our friend who had a flat tyre. He was enraged and so frustrated he refused to accept a solution at the service station.
So, is there an alternative to fretting? Yes, there is. Psalm 37:3-4 in the New King James Version (NKJV) is rendered this way:
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Instead of fretting we should trust in the Lord and do good. The word ‘trust’ here comes from the Hebrew word batach and it means to hasten to refuge, figuratively to trust, and be confident or sure. We should take refuge in the LORD and do what is good, from God’s perspective so to speak. We should have confidence in God, as these verses encourage us to do:
- “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- “Our Lord, we belong to you. We tell you what worries us; and You won’t let us fall”. (Psalm 55:22)
- “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to Him”. (1 Peter 5:7)
- “The Lord gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm”. (Isaiah 26:3)