If you’re a frustrated Christian, I’ll venture to tell you why, and what to do about it.
Frustrated with your spiritual life? With other Christians? With church? With Christianity?
I’ll make this short and direct. It may sting a bit.
❯ WHY YOU’RE FRUSTRATED
In my role as a christian disciple-maker, I’ve found that frustrated Christians tend to share these two traits:
First, they have little or no true sense of purpose in life. Or, perhaps worse, they contrive a purpose that is at odds with God’s plan for them.
And second, they won’t bother to form good habits (or try to break the bad ones) that help them live in harmony with God’s purpose.
As a result these frustrated Christians live without a point, and, knowing it shouldn’t be so, they feel it intensely. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, they feel the sheer, ineffective waste of their life: “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity!”
Take aimless Jimmy (not his real name). He was a cynical, shiftless guy who couldn’t bear anything to be serious. “You take life too seriously,” he used to say to me. Truth was, he couldn’t take anything seriously at all because that would require him to take a hard look and his own ineffectual, unsatisfying life. He was good for nothing, and good for nobody. And deep inside, he knew it. He was not known for being a happy man.
Does this sound like you? Read on…
❯ WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
If you and I could sit down together once a week for a year, there would be so many habits of life we could work on together. (Hey, I’m an average, struggling Christian, too.) But I’ve only got your attention for another three minutes, so I’ll stick to the basics. Here’s what you need to do if you’re sick of waking up frustrated. Maybe you should only focus on 1 or 2 of these now, but take note of them all. Write them down. These are the essentials you need to focus on if you want to conquer frustration.
1. Start thinking like you’re on a mission from God because, like the Blues Brothers, you are. The mission isn’t unique to you, but if you’re a Christian you’re part of it. You are Christ’s ambassador, his messenger, to the place and time you’re living in right now. Your values, decisions, habits, lifestyle, and goals, should reflect that.
2. Start reading the Bible consistently. Seriously. It’s time to end your biblical illiteracy. You know why you should and how it would benefit you, theoretically. But, you don’t know from experience (and no one can tell you) because you’ve never made it a habit of your own. Try starting with the New Testament. Here’s a few Bible reading tips to help you get started.
3. Add praying consistently to #2. Don’t know how? Try using the Lord’s prayer as a simple model for what to talk to God about. All it takes to make this a habit is to pick a time, a place, and a plan. Here’s mine: 7:30am. An empty room at the office. Currently reading the Gospel of Matthew, and the Proverbs, and praying about what I read there.
4. Find a spiritual mentor. Wow, I can’t tell you how much trouble you’ll save yourself if you’ll start #2 and #3 now and do it with someone who is further along the spiritual path than you are. So much of our frustration is born of messed up thinking about who God is and what He wants. You need to replace it with better, biblical thinking about God, life, and faith. Much of the rest of our frustration is born of our struggles with sin like addictions, anger issues, and watching porn, or simple envy. A good spiritual mentor is a person of your gender whom you can trust with your most troubling secrets. Such a mentor will build mutual accountability with you to help you develop good life habits which slowly replace the bad.
5. Join a church that will point you (end everyone else) to the gospel every Sunday. You need to hear how great the grace of God in Christ is toward you every week (and why you need it more than you think). And please note that I didn’t say attend, I said join. Because you also need the responsibility and sense of purpose that can only come from sharing the mission from God with other people. Church membership just might surprise you.
6. Receive the Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist) as often as your church will serve it. Didn’t see that coming, did you? I know most people today think of the Lord’s Supper as a nice, optional add-on to Christian worship. And, if you think the point of Communion is about you renewing your spiritual commitment, I suppose it is best left that way. But, what if the bread and wine are primarily about Christ’s commitment to you, not the other way around? Such love and promise, it seems to me, is essential, not optional.
Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Take and drink all of you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood…
7. Start praying with your spouse, or potential spouse. Yes, out loud. For one another. For the people in your life. For the mission. Yes, it really does matter that much. But again, you can’t know what strength, what encouragement, there is to be found in a spouse whom you can ask to pray for you, or whom you can offer to pray for, until you experience it yourself.
8. Serve someone. Remember that mission from God? Let’s get to it. Visit someone in the hospital. Bake some bread for your neighbor. Volunteer at a shelter. Send a card to a soldier. Everyone is in need. Everyone has something to share. (God did that.) Share yours. And do it in Christ’s name.
❯ BUT HOW?
My goal in this post was two-fold: to tell you why you’re frustrated, and to explain what to do about it.
If you see in your life the causes of frustration I described above, if you agree that these seven resolutions are essential ingredients for dealing with your frustration, then now comes the tough part:
You’ve never done this. You don’t have the time. You don’t have a plan. You don’t know where to start. You’re afraid to fail.
The simple answer is this: You need an example. You need a coach. You need #4.
Start with #4. Find someone you respect and trust. They don’t have to be a spiritual giant, they just need to be farther along the path than you, preferably someone who is pretty familiar with the Bible and prays regularly. Tell him or her what you want to focus on. Share this post with him or her if it will help you explain what you need. Ask this person if they would meet with you weekly, one-on-one, or as part of a small group.
I hope you will. I pray your life will become more effective for God’s mission. I know you’ll discover more joy in Christ. Every average Christian will.
Grace to you,
P. S. Here’s some practical advice on how to make resolutions that stick from noted blogger, Tim Challies. I think you’ll find some useful help in his post.