Why Does God Make Life So Hard? And What He Wants Us to Do About It

The early 90’s were a rough time for me. I had moved my family from a difficult financial situation in Minnesota, to a worse situation in Georgia. Our long-term plans died on the vine. I was under-employed working two part-time jobs. Debt and bills were always a problem. We lived paycheck to paycheck. We had two small kids, one inconsistent income, and zero health insurance.

To make matters worse, it seemed like everyone around me was prospering. I remember taking my son to T-ball games and discovering that, apparently, normal Dads of 5-year-olds drive a new Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes. Now, I didn’t envy their cars per sé. But, being around such prosperity was like salt in a wound when, for me, just trying to make ends meet was so…

FRUSTRATING!

❯ WHAT WILL GOD DO?

Then, we received a glimmer of hope. Our pastor told us that an anonymous someone in the congregation wanted to help us financially. They knew we were in transition and struggling financially. That someone asked the pastor to meet with us and assess our needs. We didn’t know what to say. We had numbers in our heads (involving 4 digits) that we thought could solve all our problems, but we didn’t want to say as much. Our instinct was to just wait and see what God would do. You can imagine how high our hopes were.

Then our pastor dropped by to see us again. This time, he had an envelope. He left it with us. We opened it.

It held one, single, hundred dollar bill.

❯ NOT WHAT I EXPECTED

I should have been grateful for this person’s generosity. I should have been humbled. I should have been encouraged that God knew our need and cared about my family.

But, I wasn’t.

It felt like a $100 slap in the face. I felt like God was making fun of me, playing a cruel game. I was so, so mad at God. Instead of being encouraged by this gift, my frustration and depression only deepened.

That was 20+ years ago, and there was a lot wrong with my thinking back then: self-centered, ungrateful young man. But, it’s hard not to be self-centered and ungrateful when times are tough. It’s easy to be absorbed with the frustration you feel every moment of every day.

❯ CAN YOU BE SATISFIED?

You know what it’s like: It’s that bill collector, that task you can’t get right, that car that broke down again, that medical condition, that bad temper, that same old stupid mistake, that unreasonable boss, that manipulative parent, that same argument with your spouse, that sin you worry about first thing each morning. Like the so-called Chinese water torture, frustration can be a constant, gnawing, absorbing, dripping ache on your brain.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be rid of it?

Of course, you can’t. Life’s problems are here to stay. They only change; they don’t go away.

But you can learn to respond to them better and enjoy life more. You can learn be less frustrated by your problems and more satisfied with your life.

Here’s a few things that have really helped me live a more satisfied life.

1. EMBRACE A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON FRUSTRATION

A wise person will admit: frustration is simply part of the human condition. It’s part of the curse of our eviction from Eden. We are in exiles in a difficult world. You can read about it in Genesis 3. The first man and woman trusted themselves instead of God, so God drove them from his protecting presence. The Apostle Paul, reflecting on this, taught that God subjected all of creation to frustration (Romans 8:20). That includes me and you. The Westminster Shorter Catechism aptly calls this our fall into sin and misery. (Click the WSC link and check out questions 17-20.)

Why would God do this?—So we would realize our lives are meaningless and broken without Him at the center of it. The few people who experience only comfort and ease rarely perceive their true need for God. Frustration should cause us to look outside ourselves for rescue from this broken world. It should teach us this simple bit of wisdom: Life isn’t supposed to be this way, and only a return to God will fix it.

2. BE SURE YOUR FRUSTRATION ISN’T DESERVED

Make sure your desires and motives don’t deserve to be frustrated.

Are you:

  • Trying to control or manipulate someone?
  • Pursuing a goal that God forbids?
  • Making an idol of something or someone to the point you feel empty without it?
  • Pursuing the constant win, win, win, as if that’s the ultimate goal in life.

No one gets this 100% right 100% of the time. So, we should frequently re-evaluate our plans, behaviors, and motives. Unrighteousness can creep into our hearts unnoticed, like mold in a damp basement.

And frustration will follow. God will see to it.

3. LEARN THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT

What’s the secret contentment?

It is, to see your life in God’s hands and to trust Him absolutely with every detail. Whatever He gives. Whatever he withholds. Whether you consider it blessing or curse. You have what you have in life as God wills, no more, no less. That is your lot. Trust Him. Thank Him.

It’s hard, I know. But it must be done.

Contentment with God’s will is the foundation of happiness and godliness in this average life. Paul spoke of contentment as a tremendous gain to the quality of one’s life (1 Timothy 6:6).

The alternative is resentment and deepening frustration.

4. LEARN THE BENEFIT OF GRATITUDE

Along with contentment, learn gratitude. Learn that everything good is gift. Everything. Even many hard things are gifts.

Gratitude has the great benefit of attracting friends. Friends are eager encouragers, supporters and helpers in time of need.

Only don’t adopt the fake, just for show, hash-tag-blessed sort of gratitude. Real gratitude generates real humility about oneself, real joy in one’s circumstances, and real compassion for others’ difficulties.

5. LEARN WHAT MONEY CAN’T DO

Money can alleviate a struggle. Money can make life more pleasant. Money can buy relaxation, comfort, and pleasure. Money can even buy health.

But money can not buy joy in life. That’s pretty common knowledge but we all seem to ignore it. Only humility, contentment and gratitude generate joy.

6. PUT YOUR HOPE IN THE RIGHT PLACE

If your hope is for, as Joel Osteen famously wrote, your best life now; you are doomed to frustration.

God’s promise is for your best life then.

Imagine that God was your genie in the bottle and you had all you could wish for in this life: comfort, pleasures, power, and immortality. You would essentially be the Adam and Eve they dreamed of before that first bite. You would never care about righteousness, holiness, or communion with God. You would look inward for your highest good and believe there was no good other than yours. Your immortal comforts would become ashes and dust to you. They would lose their charms. For you were made to experience ultimate joy and satisfaction by praising the goodness of another: your Maker.

This frustrating life is meant to teach us that. This is why the gospel is so inviting.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you [eternal] rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find [sabbath] rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28–30, emphasis mine

Do you have ears?

Hear.

You may also find help reading:

8 Life Changing Resolutions for Frustrated Christians

God’s Will and Your Big, Stupid Mistakes

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8 Life Changing Resolutions for Frustrated Christians

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?

With God?

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:

How?

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,

Lon

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.