Sermon: Easter 2 RCL A – “Frustration”

Doubting Thomas
by Wilhelm Marstrand

Boudreaux had been hearing about chainsaws for years, and how easy they were to use, so he finally decided to get one for himself. When he got to the hardware store, the clerk assured him these new saws could cut down five big oak trees in an hour. That was enough for Bou, so he purchased one and headed to the woods for some stovewood. Twenty-four hours later, he returned to the store. He was mad and frustrated. “It took me all day to cut down one tree,” he said. “I’d a done better with my axe.” 

Puzzled, the store owner stepped outside with the saw, gave the cord a swift pull, and fired up the steel-toothed beast. Its deafening roar sent Boudreaux stumbling backward. 

With his fingers in his ears, Boudreaux shouted, “What’s that noise?”

I told you a while back that when it comes to movies, I’m a bit like a kid—not only in the kind of movies I like but in the number of times I can watch the same one repeatedly. I find that I’ll do this when I want to relax. I know the movie, the story, and probably even most of the lines, so I can enjoy it without having to really think about it. One of those I watched last week, with all that was going on during Holy Week, was the Hunger Games series. 

There is a simple scene, but it reminded me of something. Katniss is using a flashlight as a cat toy. Move the light around, and the cat will chase it but never be able to catch it. You’ve probably all seen the same idea with those laser beam cat toys. A cat will climb the wall trying to get at the fast-moving red dot. The Queen—the eight-pound feline monarch that rules my house—has had her time with that red dot, but at some point, like Katniss in the movie, I began to wonder if it was actually any fun for the animal. Sure, it is entertaining for us, but how frustrating is it to chase after something and never be able or allowed to catch it? After a session with The Queen, I noticed she would wander the house for a good hour, meowing and unable to settle down. I realized that watching her scramble around chasing it was fun for me, but I didn’t think it was fun for her, so I put it on the shelf.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines frustration as “the feeling of being annoyed or less confident because you cannot achieve what you want, or something that makes you feel like this.” And we’ve all known this feeling. In one way or another, we’ve all chased the red dot and exhausted ourselves in our attempt to catch it, yet every time, it eludes us. From jobs to relationships to any number of goals, no matter the attempts or effort applied, they seem unattainable. This frustration then leads to anger, anxiety, shame, and even guilt. Not only is this true with life in general, but it is also true in our life with God.

Prayers that seem to be unanswered. Circumstances that can’t be resolved. Unrelenting illness. We seem unable to follow the commands in our lives, failing, and sinning time and time again, chasing the red dot of our faith, yet unable to ever catch it. Unable to get it right or know that God even hears us. If you’ve ever felt that way, you are not alone. Consider these words of King David in Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

Why have you not heard me? Have you forgotten me? I am sick. I am tired. There are those things and people that have come against me. Am I just supposed to give up and die? So much has gone wrong. Frustration. Anger. Anxiety. Shame. Guilt. And all those feelings of frustration lead us to say, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 

When we become frustrated with our lives, our lives with God, and even frustrated with God, we can doubt. Does God have a plan for my life? Does God care about me? Does God see that I’m hurting? Well, I’ve got some news for God, unless I see hard proof, then… I just don’t know. 

David was frustrated. He cried out, “How long, O Lord?” But at the end of Psalm 13, it is as though David took a deep breath and set aside his frustrations and doubt, for he concluded,

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

No longer is he speaking doubt and hurt. His words have become those of assurance, confidence, and determination. His words have become those of faith.

From what I read, Bear Bryant was one of the best college football coaches and had the track record to back it up. John McKay, another great coach, tells the following: “We were out shooting ducks, and finally, after about three hours, here comes one lonely duck. The Bear fires. And that duck is still flying today. But Bear watched the duck flap away, looked at me, and said, ‘John, you are witnessing a genuine miracle. There flies a dead duck!’” 

Bear Bryant’s faith in his shooting skills may have been a bit overinflated, but our faith in God can never be. 

I do not have a cure for frustrations; they will come, but see and know that the Lord our God is very near to those He loves, working out His good purposes.

Speaking through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord says, 

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

First, ask God if what you are attempting to do is His will or if you’re just chasing some random red dot. If you discern that it is God’s will, then trust that He will see it through. “Do not doubt but believe,” and say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

Let us pray: Lord, if what we seek is according to Your will, then let it come to pass and let success attend the outcome. But if not, Dear Lord, let it not come to pass. Do not leave us to our own devices, for You know how unwise we can be. Keep us safe under Your protection with faith in Your word, and in Your own gentle way, guide and rule us as You know best. Amen.

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