Friday, November 24, 2006

Frustration - good for the soul?

The starting point for this is a very frustrating week, not the first since I came here! However, this is the common, if not universal, experience of Westerners visiting Africa. Frustration levels rise. We say that frustration is not good for our blood pressure, but I wonder if it can be good for our soul.

This is more of a personal confession than a general principle for spiritual growth. I don’t recommend seeking frustrating situations (although you only have to commute with Scotrail for a short time to come across quite a few!). The value is in what we learn when we cannot do or get what we want, when our wills are crossed by others or by circumstances. It reveals what is really important to us and as is often the case with self-knowledge, it is painful, because the causes of frustration are often very petty and show how self-centred we are. It’s all about my time, my priorities, my plans.

It’s certainly not always wrong to get frustrated. Jesus was clearly frustrated by his disciples’ slowness to learn spiritual truth, by the Pharisees stubborn refusal to accept him and by Jerusalem’s rejection of him and many of the prophets before him. In sharing our humanity, God understands what it is like to be frustrated – He does not get all He wants, either.

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