God and the Cycle of Frustration and Guilt

I and my family have been in a tough season of late: over-worked, to the point of clinical exhaustion, and experiencing stress financially, emotionally, physically (from exhaustion) and somewhat spiritually. We know how to "count our blessings," for our circumstances could certainly be worse, but that is little comfort when enduring stress, strain, and glimpses of hopelessness and despair while questioning God.

We understand that trials are to come -- trials are promised to us by Christ (John 16:33). We also understand that trials of various kinds serve the purpose for the testing of our faith that is supposed to produce endurance (James 1:3). What if the trials, instead of producing endurance, produce hopelessness, despair, and utter frustration -- with ourselves, with others, with life and with God? What then?

Trials, for some people, can break an individual down to a point of complete and utter frustration; the frustration, however, addresses not just the trials but the God who could prevent, or at least guard us against, the trials. Then anger at God is followed by guilty feelings of implicitly blaming God, as well as being exposed for being spiritually weak, which is followed by self-loathing. Consider trials pure joy? (James 1:2) Consider the testing of our faith, in and through those trials, joy? What of the test results? What if trials prove that our faith is barely active within us?

Thank God that even during such breakdowns there is still hope. Jesus claims faith the size of a mustard seed can produce the seemingly impossible (Matt. 17:20). Moreover, what is said of Jesus is that He will not "crush the weakest reed," referring to someone who has been oppressed or beaten down by the circumstances of life, nor will He "put out a flickering flame" of faith within a person (Matt. 12:20). Even the weakest of saints is a precious, much beloved, and bold saint in the eyes of God.

Being disappointed by God, being angered or frustrated with God, may reveal a wrong perspective within us, and may even cause guilt to rise up within us, but such does not change the nature and the character and the integrity and the love of God for even the least of one of God's children. Frustration with God, and the accompanying guilt that follows, is a vicious cycle without any doubt. We question God's motives, become angry and a bit bitter, and then feel guilty. The guilt then leads to shame. Despising the shame we want to feel better about ourselves but perhaps not in spiritually healthy ways. In the process, we may sin, and then feel guilty for the sin. The guilt then leads to shame and the cycle is repeated. Where on earth is the hope?

The hope for our misery is God, in Christ, through the Spirit. The very One with whom we are angry is the only hope for our miserable state. Anyone who has read through the Old Testament, and has read statements that many have uttered to God out of anger or frustration, will readily acknowledge that God, throughout the ages, has heard just about every exhausted and malicious word uttered by mortals. He's a big God. He can take it. God has heard it all before. This fact is beneficial for us.

God allows us the freedom to speak our minds, to utter our woes and express our exasperation over our particular trials. If we fail to be transparent with the One who already knows what we are thinking then we might as well give up. But what is amazing is that this perfect Being welcomes our thoughts and feelings through the avenue of prayer. Give God an ear-full. Get into the habit of being as transparent with God as humanly possible. You may as well be completely honest with Him since He already knows what is on your mind and how you feel about your situation.

Keep asking Him for help, for a solution, and even if you have to hope against hope then hope still (Rom. 4:18). Without hope, all of our frustrations with God, followed by guilt, are wasted efforts at expression, and life itself is without value and purpose. Trials were never intended to destroy us, to define us, or to trick us into apostasy. Nor were trials ever intended to be a permanent way of living. In spite of our trials, by the grace of God, we still trust God with the issues of our life -- both temporal and eternal. Break that cycle of frustration and guilt though prayer, in silent meditation on the goodness of God, and what positive aspects are part of your daily experience. Dig in your heels and allow the Spirit of God to help you weather the storm.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.