We are called to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). But we know that our faith-running is often frustrated by people and circumstances outside our control. Plans are thwarted; expectations are unrealized. Goals are changed; hopes are dashed. How do we persevere by faith in the face of personal frustration? Let us take a moment to refresh ourselves with a classic passage from Proverbs.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)
Here we find four ways that persevering faith endures personal frustration:
1. Confidence: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” When things do not go our way we must not lose heart. Rather we must turn our hearts to the Lord. Frustration is overcome by faith. Whole-hearted confidence in the Lord and His promises will bolster you when the course you run becomes shaky and blurred. Look to Jesus (Heb. 12:2) and believe God will do you good (Rom. 8:28, 32). No matter how dire your situation becomes, keep trusting in the Lord.
2. Dependence: “Do not lean on your own understanding.” Frustration should be expected when you support yourself with your own limited knowledge of reality. In other words, we cannot trust in our own independent thinking. Because we are finite in understanding, we must depend upon the infinite wisdom of God. The good thing about being frustrated is that it makes us throw up our hands and say, “Alright, God, I believe You know what You are doing because I sure don’t know what is going on!” This is where persevering faith should be – leaning on God and His understanding (Job 42:1-6).
3. Obedience: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” Frustration tempts us to give up on obedience. It leads to this kind of false thinking: “Lord, I am trying to do this your way by seeking your will and following your commands. But nothing seems to be working out. I think it is time to do it my way with any means I deem necessary.” Thus we turn inward, give ourselves to sinful attitudes and self-centered motives, and then pursue selfish interests. Don’t let frustration lead you to disobedience. Just the opposite should happen: persevere in faith by acknowledging God in all your ways. Continue to obey Him in your attitudes and actions. This is how we show our confidence and dependence in the Lord even in the face of frustration.
4. Guidance:“He will make straight your paths.” The paths of the disobedient are “crooked” (Prov. 2:15). But the paths of those committed in whole-hearted surrender to the Lord will be made “straight” by Him. This means the Lord will guide you along the course He has for you despite present frustrations. Your path, seemingly filled with roadblocks, u-turns, and setbacks, will be straightened out by your Lord. While you wait for your path to be made clear, patiently endure in faith and obedience. Seek guidance in His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105 ESV). Believe that God, in His loving providence, will straighten the path before you.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
– William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” 1774