How to deal with frustration, failure, disillusionment and despair while
Not receiving what I deserve and
Not deserving what I receive
Contrary to what some falsely promote, the Christian life is not all sunshine and roses! In fact, Christ himself promised that "in the world we would have tribulation", and the New Testament makes no secret of the fact that Christians will be just as susceptible to frustration, trials, adversity, and discouragement as those who do not know The Lord.
Trying circumstances often fall into one of two categories - but interestingly (and encouragingly!) the Scriptures have an antidote to help us when we struggle with discouragement, disillusionment, disappointment and even despair.
The first category of circumstances with which we often struggle occurs when we (in our judgment) do not receive what we deserve. We have possibly done our best, tried our hardest, spent ourselves trying to do the right thing, and done as much and more as anyone else. And yet, in spite of all our efforts, it seems that nothing good has come out of it. Do you ever find yourself in one of the following traps, and been gripped with the resultant sense of injustice, anger, bitterness or discouragement?
I've been kind to people, gone out of my way to help them, given of my time and resources to encourage them, and I don't even get a "thank-you" in return
I've raised a family, spent decades of my life sacrificing for them and trying to raise them properly, yet none of them has turned out the way I wanted
I do all I can to help in the assembly, and yet others seem to get the recognition, praise, complements and credit - and I come and go and nobody ever seems to recognize what I do or how much I contribute! I get no respect, no recognition, no place or prominence.
- I have done my very best to honour The Lord, and I've always tried to live by the Bible's promise that "them that honour me I will honour" - and yet in spite of all my efforts, it seems that life's just getting tougher and nothing's working out and it sure doesn't seem like God's honouring me, in spite of all my efforts to honour him.
Notice the common thread running through all of the above? It's a sense that "I am not receiving what I deserve" - and this can often be a genuinely crippling force in a believer's life, stifling spiritual vitality, producing discouragement and even anger, and often tempting me to throw in the towel and give up. This spiritual cancer eats at my relationships with other believers, affects my personal spiritual condition, and sometimes even makes me resentful towards God Himself!
The second category of circumstances that can drive a believer to despair involve situations where we feel that we do not deserve what we receive. In some ways, these challenges are even harder to take. It's one thing not to get the gratitude, respect, prosperity or happiness that
I think I deserve - that's hard enough to take - but it's worse still when I actually receive hurtful things, or unfavourable circumstances in spite of all my good efforts and noble intentions.
Worse than just not saying thank-you - those I've tried to help actually turn against me, attack my character, question my motives and heap scorn on me!
Others' children have turned out well and brought joy to them, but mine have just brought shame and disgrace to me after all I've done to try to raise them right.
- Tragedy has struck and I've been diagnosed with a terrible disease, or I've lost a loved one prematurely, or I've lost my job, or my financial dreams have all crashed or my plans and dreams have all blown up, and I'm left feeling defeated, wounded and broken.
These things are real - and the emotional toll they exact is powerful! If we are honest, we struggle mightily with a sense of injustice, hurt, resentment and anger when we genuinely feel that we do not receive what we deserve or we do not deserve what we receive.
Do you find yourself struggling in these areas? Do the above sentiments resonate in your heart, drawing a sad, but honest, response from your soul? Then please allow the Scriptures to minister to your needs. The Bible has answers! There is hope!
Get your eyes on Christ and off yourself
The first thing you must do, heeding the exhortation in Hebrews 12:2 is to get your eyes off yourself and your circumstances and get your attention squarely focused on Christ!
"let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."
If ever there was a person who did not receive what he deserved, it was Christ! He deserved honour. He deserved gratitude. He deserved adoration and praise and worship and place. But he received none of these - especially at Calvary! He hung and suffered and died all alone - and received none of the things he so richly deserved!
And if ever there was a person who did not deserve what he received, it was Christ! He did absolutely nothing to deserve the hatred, scorn, mistreatment, reproach and suffering that he endured - to some degree all through his life, but especially in those awful hours in Gethsemane and Gabbatha and Golgotha! The scriptures record the heart-wrenching cry of his soul "they that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head, those that would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully, are mighty". In our case, when we're mistreated, there may be (if we are honest) at least some shred of cause - we are certainly not perfect! - but in his case, they hated him truly "without a cause". He was absolutely perfect, he had only ever loved, he had never hurt anyone - and yet he was bruised and beaten and torn and spat upon, and abandoned and mocked and taunted and rejected.
Have you ever wondered "Why?" Why did God ever allow his Son to pass through such horrors? Why would The Lord of Life and Glory ever stoop to such shame and suffering? One of the truly amazing reasons is given to us in Hebrews 2 - where the writer tells us that "he had
to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God . . . For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." He actually chose the path of suffering, rejection, misunderstanding and shame so that he would experience firsthand the challenges of living life in a sin-cursed world, and would thereby be perfectly suited to help us when we struggle. That is why in chapter 12 of the same book the writer tells us, in the passage quoted above, to "consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted"
So if you find yourself struggling with a sense of injustice and hurt - you haven't received what you deserve - your haven't deserved what you've received - the first, and most important, thing to do it to look to Him, and remember what He passed through.
A Sober Second Look at Yourself
But before leaving this topic altogether, could I gently suggest that after focusing on Christ and getting our perspectives adjusted as we consider what he passed through, and how small and insignificant our perceived slights and our legitimate hurts may be compared to His - there is some benefit in then coming back to take a sober, more honest look at ourselves.
There actually is a Biblical sense in which I have not received what I deserved - the Bible word for that is mercy! Rather than struggling thinking that I deserve recognition, place, prestige, power or whatever else, and haven't received them - I should remember that what I actually do deserve is judgment, separation, abandonment and punishment - and thank God I've received none of these! It is God's mercy that has withheld from me all that I deserve!
Secondly - rather than struggling because I haven't deserved what I've received, and brooding endlessly over how unfairly I've been treated and how unjust it all is - the Bible actually reminds me that it's absolutely true that I haven't deserved what I've received - the Biblical word for that is grace! God has lavishly poured out his rich blessings on me - and I've deserved none of them. We read of the "riches of his grace" - and out of these boundless, immeasurable stores he has lavished freely upon us the indescribable gift of eternal life!
So dear fellow-believer: As you face a new week, search honestly and ask yourself if any of this resonates with you. Are you harbouring a sense of hurt? Have you been treated unjustly? Are you crippled with a sense of how unfair your lot in life has become? Are any of the issues outlined above true in your experience? If we are all honest, the fact is we all struggle, to varying degrees, with exactly these difficulties. May The Lord help us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him! This is the first, and most important, requirement to avoid becoming "weary and faint in our minds". And may He then help us to take a sober, scripturally-adjusted look at ourselves, and thank Him from the bottom of our hearts for his mercy (we haven't received what we deserved) and his amazing grace (we certainly do not deserve what we have received!).