Are you frustrated with something or someone? Does it seem like nothing ever goes the way that you want? Is someone in your way, preventing you from doing what you want? Have you gotten mad at something recently because it didn't work the way that you wanted? These last questions start getting to the heart of why we get frustrated with things or people. Namely that we are focused on ourself and our agenda rather than the other person's needs or even God's plan.
I had a recent experience, yesterday in fact, that illustrates this point quite well. I spent most of the afternoon at work using excel to do some analysis on a circuit. I saved my work periodically, or so I thought. I finished what I was doing and closed excel, then I thought of something that I needed to check and opened what I thought was the file, and none of the work that I had just done was there. At that point I was pretty frustrated with Microsoft and excel because it hadn't given me any indication that it couldn't save my data. So I reran the macro that imported the initial data and at the end it asked if I wanted to overwrite the file. I automatically clicked "yes", and then realized that I hadn't gotten that message the first time. I did some digging and found out that it had saved the file in a different place than I had expected. However, it was really too late to recover the work that I done that afternoon, because I had just replaced it with the new data. At that point I was frustrated with myself and with the person who had written the macro. Then on the way home it seemed like there was an unusually high number of people who were driving slow. I was definitely not in a good mood when I got home.
Then when my roommate got home I found out that he had been in an accident that morning and broken his wrist. His car had been totaled and he spent most of the day in the ER getting his wrist taken care of. He hadn't even been able to get in to work, I had at least had a productive morning. Listening to his story of the day I was struck by his attitude. He was able to laugh and joke with the nurses at the ER, and noted the irony of walking into the car rental agency with a broken wrist from an accident earlier in the day. By the time he had finished telling me about his day, I had forgotten about my frustration from the afternoon.
This morning, however, I didn't have pleasant thoughts as I got ready for work. But during my devotions I read Romans 15:1-13. I was reminded that in comparison to my roommate's inconvenience from the previous day, mine was insignificant. In Romans 15:2-3 Paul tells us to strive to build up our neighbors and gives us the example of Jesus Christ who did not come to earth to please himself, but took upon himself the insults that were directed at God. I realized that the main reason that I was so frustrated by what had happened at work was that I was focused on pleasing myself rather than seeking to please God or serve others.
This attitude of pleasing myself rather than serving others is one of the primary reasons that we don't have unity in the Church. Right after exhorting his readers to serve one another, Paul prays that they would have a spirit of unity among themselves. I have found in my own life that when I am focusing on pleasing God and serving other people I don't have trouble getting along with them, but when I am focused on pleasing myself I am much more likely to not want work with certain people. As we are pleasing God and serving each other, Paul's next command in verse 7 is much easier to follow, namely accepting each other as Christ accepted us. And following that, Paul reminds us of the real goal of our unity, that is glorifying God so that other people who see us can only praise him. So I challenge you, when you get frustrated by things or people, ask yourself "who am I trying to please, God or myself?" or "whose agenda am I trying to accomplish, God's or mine?".