"Tangled Christmas Tree Lights?"
H. Jackson Brown once wrote: "My dad used to say: 'You can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these four things: a rainy holiday, lost luggage, a busy store after Christmas, and tangled Christmas tree lights."' --H. Jackson Brown Jr., author of Life's Little Instruction Book and Live and Learn and Pass it On. From USA Today, 6-19-92, p. 11a.
Rainy holidays, lost luggage, the busyness after Christmas, and tangled Christmas tree lights all can frustrate you. Each one will try your patience. I once heard of a man who spent five hours fixing one string of lights. He had one of those sets of Christmas tree lights where if one bulb went out, they all went out. Well, it just so happened that two bulbs went out at once during Christmas week. He tried changing each bulb once, then twice, then over and over. Finally he got it right five hours later. His wife looked at him and said, "Honey, we could have just bought a new set for $2 on sale." His response: "After a few minutes, I had to figure this out. After an hour, I was going to figure this out. After four hours, I didn't care what it took, I was going to fix this set of lights or else you'd have to put me in a padded room." Obviously, the light problem got to the man. The frustration boiled over.
I've seen people get frustrated. Out of frustration, people make some bad choices. In high school, one guy was pushing another guy's buttons, teasing him mercilessly. The guy who was teased was getting frustrated, then angry, then upset. He walked down a hallway, and hit a locker with his fist and broke several bones in the process. The frustration caused him to do something that really hurt.
I've seen people respond a lot of ways to frustration. Some get mad. Some get vengeful. Some hold a grudge. Some start screaming and yelling. Frustration tells a lot about you, about what's in your heart, about how well you handle adversity. I have found that spiritually, if a person is easily frustrated and made angry, they have a life that is out of balance. Maybe they are stressed. Maybe they hold emotions in. There is probably some unspoken wish, desire, or fear that is the real cause. But when they get frustrated, its like a big explosion of emotions, anger, yelling, and much more all coming out as if a volcano just blew.
Frustrations are little annoyances that eat away at you. They are things that take time from the more important things in life. One person might be annoyed that a member of the family will leave his or her shoes in the living room. Maybe it will get to you if a nurse or doctor hardly listens to you. Annoyances can come from a bill that wasn't expected, a baby who cries during the night and causes you to not get good sleep, an ache that keeps coming back, a floor that creaks too loudly, a friend who says the wrong thing, a neighbor who isn't neat, a dog that keeps barking, and on and on. Frustrations aren't life threatening, but if you let them get to you, they may cause you to blow a gasket in the wrong moment. Then, you might really make a mistake. If something in your soul isn't quite right, frustrations will eat at you more. They have a way of bothering you way more than they should. Annoyances are little problems. But when your soul isn't right, when you aren't at peace, when you and God have issues, when a sin is bothering you, you tend to blow annoyances out of proportion. They become bigger than they are. You get frustrated too easily. In essence, frustrations are like the canary in the coal mine. When you get very frustrated, it may signal that something needs to change very soon in your life.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God is talking to the people of Israel about whether or not they were faithful. God promises good things to those who are faithful, who do not break commandments, who pray to God, who are steadfast in their faith. But, God promises bad things to those who are not faithful, who break commandments and such. Here in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, God mentions that if people do not obey God "by diligently observing all His commandments and decrees, then these things are going to happen to you: you will be cursed…. your flocks and cattle will be cursed…. you will encounter disasters, panic, and FRUSTRATION." I want you to focus on that last one… frustration. Frustration is a sign of a person who isn't following God here in Deuteronomy. Maybe frustration should be a sign that we aren't doing something right, that life isn't balanced, that we need more time with God, that we aren't saying our prayers, or a sin has gotten hold in us. Frustrations occur when we let annoyances get to us and we lose perspective. Does that describe you?
A boy in Decatur, Illinois, was deeply interested in photography. He answered an ad in a magazine, ordering a book on photography. The publisher made a mistake and sent him instead a book about magic and ventriloquism. Now, for many people that in itself is frustrating. You order one thing, and they send another! Well, this young man didn't get frustrated. Instead, he began practicing the art of throwing his voice. He created a wooden dummy to whom, at one time, millions of people listened on Sunday evenings….. Charlie McCarthy. Edgar Bergen had turned a mistake into a fabulous career. He didn't get frustrated when something went bad, instead he learned from the mistake. In your own frustrating experience you can and should take a good look at a bad break. There may well be in your frustration the means of making it fruitful! It may also be that whatever is annoying you is meant to teach you patience.
The famous Professor Huxley was attending a convention of scientists in Ireland, and was late for the meeting one morning. A problem with a student kept him detained, and he was frustrated about it. He stormed out, very late, from the college hall. He hailed a carriage and said to the driver, "Drive fast, for I am in a great hurry." He got in to the carriage and began to talk to himself he was so frustrated (Ever get so upset and frustrated you started talking to yourself???)
Well, the driver started off at a mad pace and after a few minutes the professor began to be shaken up. He was being tossed around. The professor, was late and now jostled and frustrated. Then, he asked the driver, "Do you even know where I want to go?"
"No, yer honor" answered the driver. "You didn't tell me where to go, but anyway, I am driving fast." Bible Truth Illustrated, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Keats Publishing, Inc., 1979, p.5
When we get annoyed, frustrated, and upset, often its because we are in a hurry, we are harried, life is out of control. The best thing to do is stop and look at what is bothering you, what is eating at you, and deal with that rather than let the frustrations get to you. Even in this scripture, God wanted the people to know that when they got frustrated in the future, they were to know that the cause was they had sinned against God. Some of us do get frustrated when we sin against God, don't we? As if our sin was God's fault?
Author Mike Yaconelli wrote:
- "I travel a lot, and I came to San Francisco one night and missed my connection back home. It was the day before Christmas. I was angry and upset, and I called my son on the phone. I wanted him to encourage me. I said, "Man, I'm stuck in the airport; it's been a horrible day. I've been traveling too much."
- My son said, "You know, Dad, if you didn't travel so much, you wouldn't have things like this happen." Well, I didn't appreciate that. I was ticked off. I said, "Let me talk to your son [my two-year-old grandson]." Well, I forgot that when you're two you can't talk, and when you're 60 you can't hear. This is not a good combination. My two year old grandson was just mumbling on the phone and I'm frustrated at my son and…it's making me feel worse. Finally, I've had it. I hear the phone drop onto the floor. It's picked up again, and dropped. Every time it drops, I can feel my blood pressure rising…. I'm furious and angry and stuck in an airport, when all of a sudden I hear crystal clear over the phone, "I love you, Grampa."
- You know what? All my anxiety, everything went out the window. There are people who are so busy they're at their wits' end. If they'd only stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, "I love you." -Citation: The Dick Staub Interview: Mike Yaconelli," ChristianityToday.com
Frustration can boil over and come back to bite you. Thus, if God sees frustration as a sign that something is wrong in the soul, maybe you should too. If you get upset over little things… how long until big things go wrong?
God doesn't want frustration in the heart of the faithful. God wants peace. Sometimes, in order to feel love or peace, you have to let go of the frustrations in life and let God reach your heart. Let go of the need for being in control, and let God run things for a while! Don't let the little things eat at you. Let your soul be at peace. Find what hidden fear, worry, past pain, or loss is triggering the annoyances to bother you. Go to God in prayer and meditation. Don't let annoyances or sin control your day, your week, or frustrate your life…. Tangled Christmas tree lights or not! Shouldn't God be worth more to you than whatever it is that pushes you to the edge? HE DOES LOVE YOU, YA KNOW!