Hope Beyond Frustration (Psalm 37)

Bob RoaneLoving and Trusting God, Psalms, Wise living

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit….Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Psalm 34:18 Hebrews 12:14)

More on Frustration

We know the feeling. We have a big work project and the deadline has passed. We didn’t sleep well, so we wake up late and get to our workplace late. During the day, we have many interruptions and are not too productive. We get stuck in traffic on the way home, our house is noisy, and our family makes more demands on us. Our frustration is tipping over into anger. We dread anybody asking us for anything else. When we finally snap, we feel guilty. How did we let ourselves get to this point again? Where can we go when we struggle with frustration and anger? The Lord Jesus loves to steer His followers through big and little problems, but He wants us to ask for His aid and follow His advice.1 He says, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear. I will help you.”2

Dr. Gary R. Collins (1934–2021) was one of the founders of the Christian counseling movement. He said, “A frustration is an obstacle (an event, person, or physical barrier) that hinders our progress toward a goal. Frustration may come because of what others do or fail to do, unwanted events or circumstances, or because of our own failures or inabilities to reach some desired goal.” We may be more or less frustrated depending on the importance of the goal, the size of the obstacles, and how long we are disappointed.”3 But the way out of life’s frustrations is not by resenting hindrances but by accepting hard times as the occasions for the Lord’s purposes to ripen for us and in us.4

That’s where Psalm 37 comes in. In this Psalm, King David is troubled by the prosperity and power of wicked people, so he runs back to God. When he does that, David regains his confidence in the Lord’s sovereignty over the past, present, and future and God’s everlasting goodness and mercy to His people in Bible times and now.

This builds on When We Are Frustrated and Frustration or Faith in Christ?

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper. (Psalm 37:8)

I mentioned this verse in an earlier post, but come back to it again. All anger is not wrong, but we usually get it wrong. Jesus got angry on multiple occasions in the Gospels, but He never sinned. He was angry at things that dishonored God His Father. He was grieved by sin, death, and all forms of evil. We often get angry at the wrong person, to the wrong degree, at the wrong time, for the wrong purpose, and in the wrong way. Our anger is often hypocritical, getting furious about smaller sins in other people and rationalizing bigger sins in our own hearts, minds, and lives.5

So Scripture warns us: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold….My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires….Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”6 Ouch!

Get God’s Help

Former baseball pitcher Dave Dravecky (introduced in the previous post) reminds us that hurt feelings often lead to frustration, which can lead to fear, which can burst out into sinful anger. So it’s best to go to the Lord in prayer sooner than later. We ought to cast all our hurts, frustrations, and fears on God because He cares for us.7 Christ Jesus always accepts us and gives us His encouragement, peace, and contentment to cope with troubles, often showing us a way out of our problems.8

Do not say, “I cannot help having a bad temper.” Friend, you must help it. Ask God to help you overcome it at once, for either you must kill it, or it will kill you. You cannot carry a bad temper into heaven. (Charles Spurgeon)

Evildoers will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. (Psalm 37:9)

Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hope in Christ anticipates and expects the Lord to act to deliver His people in this life and finally in the world to come. Psalm 37 often reminds us that God will eventually destroy all His and all our enemies, even though our present world often rewards evildoers with money, power, and prestige. Psalm 37, like Psalm 73, calls us to raise our gaze to see things from God’s perspective, knowing that He will right all wrongs. God shows us the end of history in the closing chapters of the Book Revelation. That’s why we have hope in Jesus.

Chuck Swindol asks: Are you struggling with feelings of bitterness toward God or revenge toward someone over an injustice you suffered? You have two choices: (1) Nurse your grudge and demand that the Lord answer your “why.” Or (2) turn your grudge over to God and get His strength to bear up under your sufferings and get back to following Christ. Which way will you choose?

Psalm 10

The Psalm closes like this: The Lord is King forever and ever. The nations will perish from His land. You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.

The Jews in Bible times looked to the Promised Land as the place of God’s blessing. The land is mentioned seven times in Psalm 37. Christians are not home yet, but we have God’s Scriptures given by the Holy Spirit to guide us and we also have God’s presence with us. Psalm 23 says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me and comfort me.”

The Lord will stay with us, beloved, until we get to our true country, our everlasting home, the city with foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God. So let’s not be discouraged, but let’s hope in the Lord and help each other to do that.

To be continued

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Matt 7:7-12.     2 Isaiah 41:13.     3 Christian Counseling (3rd Edition), p. 163.     4 James Reid, Facing Life with Christ.     5 Matt 7:2-4.     6 Eph 4:26-27; James 1:19-20; Ecc 7:9.     7 1 Peter 5:7.     8 1 Cor 10:13.