Seeing Red?

Jerry Bridges


Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16 ESV


As a student teacher in the 1970’s I was surprised to learn that one of my favourite books as a child (Tootle – 1945 by Gertrude Crampton – as of 2001 the third best-selling hardcover children’s book in English) was controversial (because of its message that we ‘should stay on the rails, no matter what’). But the red flags that confronted the little engine whenever he left the tracks to play in the meadows along the way suggest a positive aspect of frustration that as Christians we may be thankful to our loving heavenly Father for. This final brief post on the theme of frustration also comes from Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges wrote: “This is a tremendously encouraging and comforting thought. So when something happens that tends to frustrate me, I actually quote Psalm 139:16 to myself and then say to God, ‘This circumstance is part of Your plan for my life today. Help me to respond in faith and in a God-honouring way to Your providential will. And then please give me wisdom to know how to address the situation that that tends to cause the frustration.’

Note what resources I have brought to bear on the circumstance that tends to frustrate me: specific applicable Scripture and dependence on the Holy Spirit expressed through prayer to enable me to respond in a godly manner. And then I pray for practical wisdom to know how to deal with the situation. After all, in my illustration about the computer printer, the important document does eventually need to be printed.

It is also beneficial to ask God if there is something I need to be attentive to. Sometimes God uses events that tempt us toward frustration to get our attention, or even to push us further in an area we need to grow in. In any case, there are no events in our lives that do not ultimately come to us from the invisible hand of God, even though they come through some visible cause.”

From Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins.



Meet the Author?

Jerry Bridges your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16 ESV

At the library, I noticed a poster advertising a meeting with the author of a series of books well familiar to me. In fact I had just checked out the latest in the series, feeling quite pleased with myself to have jumped the queue. Now, I wonder what I would say to the author if I met him. Could I look him in the eye and tell him, ‘Well, it was OK but really not one of your best. I found myself skipping ahead, frustrated with some characters, and some of the action; frustrated with you.’ This second of three brief posts on the theme of frustration comes from Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges wrote: “…frustration usually involves being upset or even angry at whatever or whoever is blocking our plans. I might have an important document to print from my computer, but the printer will only produce gobbledygook. Instead of believing that God is sovereignly in control over the actions of my computer and that He has a good reason for allowing it to act up, I get frustrated. Actually, this type of reaction has its roots in my ungodliness at the moment, for at that time I am living as though God is not involved in my life or in my circumstances. I fail to recognize the invisible hand of God behind whatever is triggering my frustration. In the heat of the moment, I tend not to think about God at all. Instead, I focus entirely on the immediate cause of my frustration.

“The passage of Scripture that has greatly helped me deal with frustration is Psalm 139:16, which says, ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’ (NIV). ‘Days ordained for me’ refers not only to the length of my life but to all the events and circumstances of each day of my life.”

From Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins.

Glorious Frustration?

Weight of Glory

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed
two days longer in the place where he was.
… Did I not tell you that if you believed
you would see the glory of God?
John 11:5-6, 40 ESV

The frustration that Mary and Martha felt towards Jesus over the illness and death of their brother, Lazarus, was shared by the disciples. For the disciples, there was the added irritation that not only, after three days, would Lazarus be dead, but also that Jesus would be putting himself, and them, at risk if they went to Bethany. Their courage was not in question even if their faith was, as Thomas showed when he said to the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16 ESV). How do we deal with our frustration at events and circumstances, at the behavior of others or even, at times, with the behavior of God Himself? This first of three brief posts on the theme of frustration comes from C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “The second enemy [of the scholar in war-time] is frustration – the feeling that we shall not have enough time to finish. If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether, of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say, ‘No time for that,’ ‘Too late now,’ and ‘Not for me.’ But Nature herself forbids you to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the lord’. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.

Altogether needy?

Praying With Paul

Occasionally it helps to take notice of the times in our prayers that we slip into the habit of beginning new thoughts with ‘I’. ‘Lord, I….’ or ‘Lord, I just…’ or ‘Lord, I am…’ or ‘Lord, I need…’ and remember that when Jesus taught his disciples collectively to pray (Luke 11 and Matthew 6) foreseeing their shared future, their shared ministry, and their shared trials, he reminded them of their shared grace. Our father’, ‘give us’, ‘forgive us, ‘lead us not into..’, ‘deliver us…’ This final brief post on the theme of What We Really Need also comes from Dr. D. A. Carson.

 Dr. Carson wrote: “The Western church needs nothing more urgently than groups of believers, unknown, unsought, privately, faithfully, without promotion or fanfare, covenanting together to seek God’s face, praying urgently for what is best as we contemplate the day of Jesus Christ – praying, in short, for revival. What would the end of these things be? God is sovereign and full of compassion: who knows what he might do?”

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”  Philippians 1:9-11 NIV

From Dr. D. A. Carson in ‘Praying With Paul’.