I was completely out of patience. Mark had blatantly disobeyed me repeatedly. By this time, it was early evening, and I was out of energy. While Mark’s long-term and short-term memory loss had trained me to be a broken record, on this day it had taken a particularly hard toll. Mark’s hearing was fine, and I knew he was listening. I had purposefully been using words that I knew he had heard before and could understand. There was just one problem: he was choosing not to obey.
“Mark, go to your room,” I said, not even attempting to hide my exasperation. I was about to lose it and desperately needed a moment alone.
“But why?” he said genuinely puzzled. “Why not I stay out here?”
“Do you really not know?!” I snapped back even though I already knew that he didn’t. Though Mark was being disobedient, it certainly wasn’t intentional. He was rarely noncompliant on purpose and truly nearly always wanted to please. Mark’s heart was incredibly pure and full of love. And that only added to my shame at this particular moment. I knew better, and I could do better. I just had no more energy left to do so.
“Mark,” I sighed. “Momma’s just all out of nice right now.”
And there you have it: the truth. Mark headed straight down the hall to his room and I fell down on the sofa. I needed a minute, a minute to figure out exactly how I was going to explain the error of his ways in a way that both made sense to him and was sensitive. (Again, I was momentarily all out of nice.)
After my self-imposed time-out, I picked myself up and slowly walked down the hall. All the way, asking God to help me. Help me find the right words. Help me practice more patience. Help me to help him.
“Mark? Can Momma talk to you?”
“You all better now?”
“I’m better, but I’m still frustrated. Do you know what that means? Have you ever felt frustrated?”
“No…” Mark answered honestly but with hesitation. Nervous that I was still in a fragile state, Mark didn’t want to confess to not knowing something.
“You know what it feels like,” I said. “I know because I’ve seen you frustrated.”
I sat down next to him on the bed, took one of his hands in mine and gently unfolded his fingers.
“See these marks?” I said pointing to some small, fresh scabs on the inside of his palm. “You clench your fists tight when you’re frustrated. When you don’t use your squeeze balls, you hurt yourself. That’s what frustration feels like. You get all tight and hot. It can feel like mad, but it’s different. And it can make you feel like you don’t know what to do. Do you understand?”
“But why you be frustrated?”
“Mark,” I started, looking for the just the right words as I said them. “I’m frustrated because I know you hear my words. I know you know what they mean, but you don’t do them. All you have to do is hear my words and do them. It’s that simple.”
“I frustrated too,” he managed to say through a stream of tears. “I not feel I do anything right.”
My heart broke and immediately my supply of nice was restored. In that exact moment, I understood completely what he meant and why. No one can follow through on what they don’t remember or even understand.
Sigh. How often does suffering and frustration crowd out what we already know to be true? How often does it rob us of remembering the safe harbor that exists for us at all times? How often challenges can falsely make us feel like there’s nothing we can do. In order to suffer well, we need to be careful to not fall for our feelings, not to fall for these lies.
Yeah, I understood exactly how Mark felt because I’ve felt this way, too.
If you’ve been there too, here’s some help:
Acknowledge how you feel. Choose authenticity over acting.
God already knows our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10, Romans 8:27), so we can be completely honest with Him. Refuse to let fear, guilt or shame prevent you for reaching out for God’s help.
Act on His guidance and instruction.
You wouldn’t just read the instructions on a bottle of medication and expect to get better. So, don’t treat God’s Word this way, either. It’s up to us to put to use what He’s already placed within our reach. Make a commitment to act on what you know is true rather than falling for feelings.
Accept His answers—whatever they are.
Trust isn’t just something we have. It’s something that we choose to do. Grow and strengthen your trust in God by reviewing His track record. Start by reading how He worked in the lives of others in Scripture and consider making a list of specific ways God has proven Himself faithful and trustworthy in your life, too.
Like this post? It’s taken from Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well. (Click here to find it on Amazon.)