If you are alive, then at some point you have been frustrated. Plans fail, things you are expecting to happen fall through, things that need to be accomplished to reach a goal seem impossible. So how do you deal with that? I don’t know anyone who finds it easy to deal with all the time.
Sometimes we see the reasons for those frustrations while we’re still here on earth. In the Bible, God tells us “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) While in that passage God was talking about retrieving the nation of Israel from captivity, it sometimes applies to individual Christians in troublesome situations today.
My husband and I, for example. Several months ago we were incredibly frustrated when he was unable to find anywhere to go for his research. We really believe that God got him into graduate school, and directed him toward the particular emphasis of poverty in developing nations, so why was it that all the contacts he had in those nations were refusing to let him come and do his research there? He had a contact in Uganda, on the board of directors for an orphanage, who said he could come. No problem, sounds like useful research, definately plan to come, it just needs to be approved by the full board of directors and they’ll meet in a couple months. And a couple months later the board of directors met and said “no”. We were surprised, and had no back up plan at that time. So we scrambled, and I contacted someone I knew in Uganda, and asked if she could find us someplace. She said sure, that would be easy, she’d let us know in a week. But then all of her attempts fell through as well. We were at a loss.
By this time all the deadlines for grant applications were past. Even if he found somewhere to go, we would have to find the money to pay for it by ourselves. Just how were a university student and his unemployed wife supposed to do that? But there was nothing to do but keep trying, so we kept trying.
the next attempt was through someone my husband knew in international ministry, who attempted to get us placed in Kenya (no dice), and then Nicaragua (looked like it was going to work, then they stopped responding to emails). After waiting to see if communications with that group could be re-established, our attempt was through the pastor at our church. We knew the church had several “sister churches” overseas, so perhaps one of them had a ministry location that would work for my husbands interviews. The pastor thought of four people, two in Kenya and two in the Philippines, who might fit the bill. But he only had contact with them through Facebook. Whoever heard of making a request to allow sociological research at your location through Facebook? But that’s what we had, so my husband dutifully sent off simple, one-paragraph requests through facebook’s messaging. And he got a reply!
One person in the Philippines replied yes! He would be happy to find us a place to do the research, to help us in setting this up, and he wanted to host us at his house for the entire trip! Not only that, he gave us permission to drive his car, and would assign one of his staff members to us as guide and translator if we needed one!
We were stunned. What a blessing! We had a location, we had help in getting around, we had a place to stay. Now, how in the world were we going to afford what was left? It looked like we would need the money to send him to the Philippines (yikes), and some grocery money and spending money. But how to afford that flight? My husband contacted a relative of his who used to travel a lot, and asked her if she had any frequent flier miles she wouldn’t be using, if she would be willing to transfer them to him to assist in paying for the flight.
That night my husband and I had a fight. Every time we had talked in person to someone about my husband going oversears for a month to do research, they had assumed I was going with him. Even when we told people straight out that I was not, they kept talking as if I were. It was crazy. I would say “when HE goes there…” and they would respond “You two will have such a good time!” It was starting to annoy me. And then my husband started doing the same thing! I had just done the budget spreadsheets for the month. I knew exactly how much money we had available. I knew where it needed to be spent. I knew how much money we needed to keep in savings so we could keep renting our house (and eating) until the next installment of financial aid arrived. And I knew that left no money for a plane ticket – let alone two. So my husband kept asking “if we could find a way for you to come with me, would you want to come?” and I kept responding “It doesn’t matter what I want to do, we can’t even afford to send YOU!”
It ended amicably, with a hug for us both and an “of course I’d want to come – I just don’t know how we could afford it” from me, and a prayer from both of us that God would somehow figure something out.
A few hours later we received an email from my husband’s relative. Sure, she had frequent flier miles for him, but in addition she thought it wasn’t right for us to be apart for so long so early in our marriage – so as our anniversary present she was sending us BOTH to the Philippines, and in Business Class!
To wrap it all up, here we BOTH are in the Philippines. Our travel was paid for. Our housing was provided at no cost. Our food has been paid for except for some lunches we had on our own. Our transportation has been provided at no cost. Our translators have all been volunteers who refused pay beyond us covering their lunch cost. We have officially spent less money during this trip than we would have spent during the same amount of time at home.
And all those grant deadlines that were missed? If he had gotten any of those, it would have only paid for HIS travel.
And that Uganda orphanage that we really wanted him to go to at first, and we were pretty upset about when they said no? That area of Uganda is now experiencing a small outbreak of the ebola virus, and residents are being warned against congregating together. He might not have even been able to do his research if he had been there.
And that job I kept looking for and not getting? If I had been employed, I would not have been able to drop everything and come with my husband to the Philippines.
I do intend to keep all this in mind the next time I am frustrated because I have not been able to accomplish something. I’m human, and I’m sure I will forget sometimes. Or I’ll think that I’m a unique case and have a right to be frustrated. Or all kinds of other things. But in the end, I really hope I can remember this experience forever, and that it will forever color how I deal with frustration. Because sometimes you don’t get what you want, instead you get something better.