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Sharing the Frustrations that turned to Joy

One of the points this chapter makes is that the awakening of our hearts to God’s reality might first be seen in the frustrations we have with God. Because we want to fit him into a system and he cannot be contained there it often looks as if he’s ignoring us, or at least not honoring our efforts. What frustration did you have, that you later recognized was a gift that turned your heart in a new direction?

I’ll start. When I was a pastor, I was frustrated that our programs never achieve the level of fruitfulness we hoped for. No matter how much we tweaked them or how much effort we put in them they never produced the results we hoped for. I spent many years frustrated that God wouldn’t reward our efforts and only later came to realize that our efforts couldn’t achieve the fruit we hoped for. God was bringing me to the end of my own efforts, so I could embrace his working but not seeing that at the time I was frustrated that he wasn’t doing enough for me.

And it’s OK to share some frustrations that haven’t become joy yet, because others might know what joy it may well lead to when you get a bit further down the road.

I have gradually come to believe over a period of many years that there is no relationship between what is commonly called church as the result of 2000 years of traditions vs. the reality of being the church as the scriptures reveal. When it got to the point where I just could not go to church anymore, and nobody I knew believed like I had come to believe about church, I struggled with God with, “Why have you shown me these things? What am I supposed to do with this?” That was my frustration. The joy has gradually come as I have been getting to know Jesus these past few years far more intimately than ever in the past and that makes the frustration all worth it. God has also reconnected me with a friend from many years ago with whom I can have more real fellowship than I ever had in churchianity. But still, there are times I feel the frustration of loneliness.

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Going through the same thing here. I really do not like attending the current church I have been at. Nice people and nice pastor but it’s still the same old thing. He did a several week study called “I love Sundays.” Of course there is the whole message of if you make Sundays a day for church and rest it will change how the rest of your week goes. If you do this then God will do this. Problem number one. Everyone looks good on Sundays. My concern for me is how am I behaving Monday to Saturday? It’s not just about one day of the week. I want the specialness of Jesus everyday of my life no matter if the earth is burning down around me. What if something horrible happens that week (my life is riddled with horrors and I’m not being dramatic) then you spend years wondering what you did wrong towards God and how can you fix it? They say I need to pray more, memorize more scripture then God might get happy with me. This is my walk with Christ. Trying to appease and please. I am frustrated with study groups. They all want to study Piper or someone with Calvinistic slants. Maybe other Christians haven’t run into this much Calvinism but its all that I hear. The language is seeped with it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not hear some form of this doctrine.
I wish God would do something mighty and specific so that I might really see and hear Him. I have these thoughts that say well you don’t hold to Calvinism so you can’t expect God to show Himself to you. Yes the torture is that deep. At the same time I am praying and communing, watching and waiting and hoping that God will show me something and free my brain.

Because of my steeping in the IC, and because of my personal growth through the people in my IC, I felt very much like big ideas I would have should be put into practice through this “bigger church.” Several times, I approached our pastor, basically asking for a new “program” or shout-out to the congregation to get involved in something I felt God had put on my heart. I still remember our young (wise) pastor’s response. “How are you personally involved in this ‘calling?’ If God is truly calling you, what are you doing in response?” He was right, although I was frustrated. Instead of allowing a personal God to work through me, I wanted the backing of the IC to justify the calling and to have a bigger impact. His words have often returned to me. My walk with God is much more personal now. What is he nudging ME to do? I grow through my personal response and don’t have such a need for a corporate response. I was looking for the church to do something big. I didn’t understand God’s working through individuals…even individuals like me.


I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to do church so we would be a real community making disciples and not a bunch of loners sitting in the same room. Never could get things to gel. Church was a real bust.

Something clicked last week. It won’t work because it CAN’T work the way I always thought church was supposed to be. Suddenly felt free. We have no plans to pastor again – not in the traditional programmed way. No more panic to figure out what to do to make it work better next time. There won’t be a next time.

Now I’m learning to live one day at a time. Bible. Finding Church. Engaged. Jake’ story. He Loves Me. Tossed the prayer list. I don’t have to worry about where it all goes. Just focusing on my own relationship with the Lord right now. I don’t have to fix church. No more survival mode. What a relief!!!


So awesome, Beth. Love where you landed, but I’m sure there is a lot of rough roads between the lines of your short post. Thanks for being courageous enough to explore the road less traveled. I pray that God will continue to lead you and your husband into the growing reality of the church he is building around you!


This is so good. I actually saw something about frustration as a catalyst (if we let it be) from Graham Cooke ealier this week:

“Frustration is either the spark of life that creates a new dimension or the detonation of all that we hold dear.”

For me, it’s always been a simmering frustration that I kept ratcheted down for decades. It was watching how leadership would sacrifice the fire and freedom of Holy Spirit in church services because of fear of lack of control. It was that coupled with knowing in my heart that God had designed me to be a participant in this Kingdom work and life, but feeling relegated to an observer from a distance. There was no place for me. The last year has brought more of that to the surface and it directly collided with that simmering frustration to where I realized I was done.

All of my attempts to advocate for lessening of the iron grip on our worship services and to operate in a way that felt authentic and empowered failed over and over. And I had to step back and realize that it is the nature of the institution to do all of these things. I truly believe those in the church and in the leadership are predominately there out of the right heart and motives to start, but it cannot be sustained.

But, yes, that frustration was the spark of life that is creating that new dimension that I always wanted within the IC. Finding it outside those walls is a gift, but it’s like navigating an unknown wild territory. Completely exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Parlier, CA


I sympathize with your torture you describe in this and your other posts. Perhaps this book study forum is not the place for me to make recommendations? (Wayne, feel free to leave it out of the forum), but I thought I’d recommend something I heard (in addition to He Loves Me and other books by Wayne) that helped me be in a freer place regarding Calvinism. It is a YouTube video of Steve McVey called “Included.” He used to be a 5 point Calvinist (and a very legalistic pastor) and seems to have studied it extensively. (He can seem a little defensive due to the fact that he is attacked by legalist regularly.) He discusses the universality of the cross…what Christ did He did for everyone and it is done…now believe it…etc… Anyway, I hope it helps–and even if it doesn’t I pray that your eyes are opened and your mind is freed, your ‘frustrations are turned to Joy.’ —jkf


Before I left the “Church”, the Father showed me this scripture. Matthew 25:34 - 40 “…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in…” etc. It was like he was showing me that this was like church should be like and this was not happening here. Or any where I was searching for Christian fellowship. I was trying to make it work by helping to set up a Women’s group. We (all eight of us) wanted to help people by starting up a food and clothing bank. Or visiting sick ones and help provide meals for their families. And the list goes on and we all burned out and one by one we left that “Church”. All we wanted to do, or felt led to do, was love people the way we thought Jesus was telling us how to love them. I’ll be honest I had no idea what to do, I was frustrated and heartbroken. That was 30 years ago. Then about eight years ago I read Wayne’s book, “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore”, and I realized it wasn’t up to me. Now it’s whoever the Father puts in my path on my journey. I still feel a bit disconnected because I’ve not run into many people who are on this journey.


I think from God’s point of view it’s the other way around. Clinging to Calvinism or any other -ism puts our focus on something man made (albeit for God even), but not on him. Calvinism is a tight system and it is loath to let people go to embrace a Father who is more real and more relational than it makes room for. You’re on a great journey, Gadelia. These are the early stages that can be quite painful, but God is unwinding what got twisted in your thinking about him and that will allow you to see him and know him as he really is. It’s a process. Don’t be tormented. God wants this with you more than you want it with him. He will get you there…


I think there might be a confusing typo in your reply to Gadiela, Wayne…“but God is unwinding what GOT twisted in your thinking…” ? Or am I not understanding?

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Oops… You’re right. Typing too fast. I change did above so everyone will be confused when they read this. :slight_smile:

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I am at the point of my life where I have come to a crossroads…in my mid-forties, I see my best physically productive days behind me, as my body starts to slow and break down in places. Institutions such as the workplace, the church,and in superficial friendships,where youth and energy are vital, and even celebrated, I have begun to be seen as more of a liability than an asset. In my worst moments I feel alone and despondent. Is what I do all there is to life? Well, if it is, my life is coming to an end. But deep down, I know it isn’t.

God created me as a human being, not a human doing. Unfortunately, from family, to friends, to employers and co-workers, and to church members, I staked my existence on what I did, not what I was. I valued achievement over everything else. For a while, as the awards and accolades came, life was working. But then started to come the negative reports, the betrayals, for reasons beyond what I could comprehend. I thought I was doing the same things I always did, but now I wasn’t getting the same results. And the people I surrounded myself with started to perceive me differently, as my values no longer lined up with theirs.

One thought I keep in mind, as I face challenges that the world frowns upon as not contributing to one’s success and well-being in life, is that Jesus made Himself of no reputation. What others think of me, because I am not as healthy, or rich, means nothing to God. And I hope and pray one day I will be able to surround myself with people who also see their worth in God more valuable than their worth to other people, in what they can do for them.


I like that, human beings, not human doings. Thanks Ron.


Thank you Joan. I appreciate your words. Calvinism is my thorn. It’s really something that my mind won’t completely release. It would keep rearing up. This is why we left our last church. It took a hard spin towards Calvinism. They got rid of a pastor because he wasn’t a Calvinist. I never realized that I would leave a church over this doctrine until now. I realized deep inside that I just could not remain under that teaching without completely loosing my mind. I wanted to push through and try but I hit a wall and just said no more. I think God is trying to deal with some deep stuff. Not sure how He is going to all this.

The biggest frustration was the amount of divorces I witnessed among my brothers and sisters. Pastors, ministry leaders, close families… No one seemed or seems immune from marital destruction. It was extremely frustration when I was single. Those families were a foundation for me. I wanted encouragement that faith and relationship with Christ was enough to strengthen the bond of marriage. But I saw even the strongest marriages fail. It was very disheartening. In the midst of the corporate environment, I was looking for family… and even that was disappointing.

Seeing so much marital failure only strengthened my resolve once I got married. I wanted a life long relationship. I wanted to love like Jesus loved, I wanted to love even when it hurt and not give up. I wanted to know that the love Jesus promised to manifest in us was real, that it worked. I wasn’t seeing much evidence of it… until I got married and I gave myself over to the very love that Jesus is about. I have seen it over and over again in the last seven years of my married life. I am more grieved now instead of frustrated. More saddened than disappointed in the breakups of my sisters and brothers. I can’t fix them, I can only love where I am planted.

Maybe a lot of the pressure to perform had something to do with the breakdown of the families. I just don’t know.

Ruby from Calmar Alberta

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I’m pretty sure that’s the result, not only within families but to the family of God connecting to each other. If we’re performing we’re not being authentic and community grows where people can be real.

Wayne from Southern Cal


Any kind of Jesus + something approach to the Christian life, including Jesus + Calvinism, is unhealthy. The Christian life is Jesus. My last pastor when I stopped going to church was an extreme Calvinist who functioned as though the only Christians worth listening to were Calvinists. I was so restless listening to him that my wife told me I was a distraction to her and that it was fine with her if I didn’t go to church and sit there all restless.

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The thing that frustrated me the most was that in the last 1or 2 dozen IC’s that I have been to (both traditional and contemporary) almost every pastor acted like an authoritarian dictator. If you pointed out the parts of the Bible that say you shouldn’t lead by domineering over others (such as Mt.20:25-28; & 1Peter 5:2-3) they either stood silently with blank looks on their face, or they would get mad at you, and cast many silly accusations at you.

I made a commitment with myself to never be that way, yet people told me I was becoming a very bitter person, and this led me to go through some books and studies on Gods love and living by faith. At first I tried to love people on my own, but only seemed to fail miserably. I argued with God about it, and I ended up surrendering myself to the more loving God I learned about. This changed me so drastically, and so much for the better, that some people said it was like I wasn’t the same person any more.

I found myself showing more grace and love to people, and I began to pity those church leaders with bad attitudes, because I figured that they failed to understand how much God loved them, just as I had failed in that same area.

I can also see that the preachers bad attitudes were also partly based on the frustration of trying to get a broken system to function, when that was impossible. It’s like trying to get a car to function when the engine and transmission were missing or severely broken.

I can now see that all these difficulties led me to a greater understanding of Gods love, and to desire to experience God’s love together with others… and it also led me to this book discussion group, and some great fellowship here. :slight_smile:

Sims / Bailey, NC


Do you know dear heart that Calvin himself was trained as a lawyer? Explains a Lot, doesn’t it? I too was raised in it- Marinated is more like. All the Rules and Regulations and constant reminders of how UNWORTHY we are, so we must Try Harder. It’s never enough, and all that effort keeps the focus on ME. I finally am learning to trust that it isn’t about me, doesn’t depend on me at all- It’s all HIM and all I have to do is unlearn all that legalism and trust that He is who He says He is! I had an interesting experience the other day. I realized that I completely trusted God’s ability to come after me and lead me to Himself when I was deliberately out in the wilds doing my own thing, BUT I didn’t really trust Him to reach me Now when all my thoughts and desires are toward Him and to be His. Not very Logical, is it? We had a good laugh about it, and I am trying to let go of that also. It takes time, but you will come out of it. There is Life after Calvin.