Those blessed frustrations: How God matures us!

I don’t handle frustrations well. A story or two to make that point…

When we lived in the New Orleans area, a few blocks from my house was a diner which had received rave reviews from the Times-Picayune. The owner, a master chef from some New Orleans restaurant, knows his business, we read. So,  when a pastor friend suggested we meet for lunch, we decided on that cafe.  When he had to cancel at the last minute, I went alone.

I entered, saw the place was fairly crowded, and took a stool at the counter. After maybe two or three minutes, I hailed a woman busing tables and asked for a soft drink. She brought it, I studied the menu, and I waited for a waiter or waitress. Ten minutes later, I dropped a couple of bucks on the counter and walked out. With service like that–okay, a lack of service–they’ll not be in business long. If that is indeed indicative of how things are there.

As Yogi Berra said of a certain restaurant, “Nobody goes there any more; it’s too crowded.”


I drove to a coffee shop near our church that caters to a breakfast crowd, knowing I’d be waited on. I was the only customer. The lady behind the counter was also the cook at that hour and gave excellent service. We chatted about restaurants, service in restaurants, the Lord, the church, my pastor (who is a regular here) and such stuff.

Maybe that little appointment was on the Lord’s calendar for me.

Today I ran across this note from ten years ago.

“I’d run into a little restaurant to grab a sandwich. After waiting five minutes without any kind of acknowledgement from a waitress, I quietly got up and left. Down the street a half mile, I pulled into a parking lot and entered a fast food place. The assistant manager was an inactive member of my church and now going through a divorce. She needed her pastor and at that moment, the Lord had sent me in.”

Good timing, Lord.

It’s clear from all this that my impatience with poor service in restaurants is not a new thing. It has at various times, however, been a painful thing.

I can recall times when the wait staff ignored me and I walked out, only to get in line at another restaurant where the service was even worse. So, I stand there kicking myself for not controlling my inner self and practicing patience.

“The trying of your faith worketh patience,” Scripture says (James 1:3). The word “patience” there is frequently translated “perseverance.” In his commentary on James, David P. Nystrom says, (This perseverance/patience thing is) a highly prized trait. Hypomone (the Greek word) is a new feature added to the character of a Christian in the crucible of testing. This word does not refer to a solitary and exceptional act of fortitude, but to a deeper component of character that manifests itself in various situations. It means active steadfastness, staying power, constancy, and a determination under adversity. But it is colored with the idea of hope, which animates and enriches these other qualities.

Staying power.

When you and I want to build a muscle, we apply stress to it.

When the Lord wants to build a character trait in His children, He stresses us in that particular area. To teach us love, He shows us great need. To teach generosity, He gives us want. To teach kindness, He lets us endure harshness.

To build up our trust and quietness of spirit, He sends frustrations and turmoil.

Once we learn His teaching technique, we can respond to these trials differently. Instead of griping–“does the wait staff in this joint not see me here; am I invisible!”–we begin to silently thank the Lord and begin watching for indications He is doing something in this.

That’s why James in this little epistle goes on to say, “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials.” (James 1:2)

God is up to something. God is growing His children, bearing a witness to onlookers, rebuking the unfaithful and rebellious, and honoring His own Name.

Once we understand this, we begin to act in a rather bizarre fashion. In fact, some would even call us nuts.

Here’s what I mean….

So (the apostles) went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41).

Those who understand the methods of the Holy Spirit have the privilege of growing into men and women of great peace and joy.

Maturing is a growth process, not a “gift of the Spirit” which we are given when the Lord saves us or a blessing He drops on us in answer to a good prayer.

I’m working on it. Long way to go.

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