We do not typically associate daily frustration with suffering. In his masterful work The Imitation Of Christ Thomas à Kempis not only draws the two together, but highlights the profound truth our inability to handle life’s minor frustrations reveals.
“The man who will suffer only as much as seems good to him, who will accept suffering only from those from whom he is pleased to accept it, is not truly patient,” à Kempis writes. Our idolatry of control runs so deep we become impatient—frustrated—when we cannot control our suffering. He continues:
For the truly patient man does not consider from whom the suffering comes, whether from a superior, an equal, or an inferior, whether from a good and holy person or from a perverse and unworthy one; but no matter how great an adversity befalls him, no matter how often it comes or from whom it comes, he accepts it gratefully from the hand of God, and counts it a great gain. For with God nothing that is suffered for His sake, no matter how small, can pass without reward.
The way frustrations drove à Kempis to God (not the individual frustrations themselves) became something for which the great theologian was thankful. He prayed; “For though this present life seems burdensome, yet by Your grace it becomes meritorious.” In a challenge, à Kempis writes of his readers’ daily frustrations:
And if they do not seem so small to you, examine if perhaps your impatience is not the cause of their apparent greatness; and whether they are great or small, try to bear them all patiently. The better you dispose yourself to suffer, the more wisely you act and the greater is the reward promised you. Thus you will suffer more easily if your mind and habits are diligently trained to it.
The inability to engage our faith in life’s daily frustrations can be defeating; based on the words of his prayer, à Kempis must have experienced the same thing. Yet, instead of falling into despair, he again clings to God:
O Lord, let that which seems naturally impossible to me become possible through Your grace. You know that I can suffer very little, and that I am quickly discouraged when any small adversity arises. Let the torment of tribulation suffered for Your name be pleasant and desirable to me, since to suffer and be troubled for Your sake is very beneficial for my soul.