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Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-3 NIV
Yesterday, I was having “one of those mornings” and people were driving me crazy. I was feeling wholly uninspired and deeply frustrated, and, all the while, knew I was about to have to sit down and start to write my Daily Word. So, I turned hurriedly to Bible Gateway, typed “frustration” into the search bar in the NIV translation of the Bible and awaited the results, praying for a divine word in season.

In the NIV translation, there’s just this one entry with the word ‘frustration’ and it seems, at first, like a misnomer: Frustration is better than laughter? A very literal translation from the Hebrew leaves us with this sentence: “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.”
How true. How easily and cheap laughter can be–it’s rarely costly, sometimes, but rarely game changing, and easily misunderstood or misused, but sadness and frustration? They are born out of deep care or passion, out of trial and from love.

When we find ourselves in a place of frustration, it can be helpful to remind ourselves this is the flipside of caring deeply about something–it’s a direct consequence of spending ourselves doing things or being in places that matter to us. It’s also a sign we’re invested, we’re willing to take things to heart and be challenged.

Frustration is rarely a problem in itself, but how we act in that place is indicative of many things about our walk of faith, of healing, and of self-awareness. Frustration can indeed be a gift when we handle it with grace, with honesty, with insight and with compassion for those around us. It takes a good deal of prayer and practice to be able to manage it well, and I know that I have some way to go!

When you are frustrated this week, take a moment to step back from this emotion and to see the true cause of your frustration–the great gift of passion and care. Ask for God to bring wisdom and insight into the situation, that you and God would make your place of frustration something that ends up better than laughter. Rather than give in to the real and easy temptation to sow seeds of division and darkness, ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to use your frustration to bring light, clarity and unity.
The Rev. Jane P. Ferguson
Associate for Liturgy, Student Ministries and Outreach
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