by Melissa Brotton | 21 August 2022 |
The other morning my new shoes arrived on my doorstep. As I opened the package, the inside of the box’s lid told me that the shoes had been repacked in “frustration-free packaging because the original box was damaged in transit.” I looked closely at the box to see what it was that made it “frustration-free.” Certainly, the box opened easily enough. Another bonus was a lack of extra packing materials such as crinkly paper, foam peanuts, or plastic wrap. My shoes were safe enough, it would seem, without any extra layering or protection other than that nifty, simple box.
How great life would be if everything came in frustration-free packaging, if, when we entered into each new day, we’d find ourselves and everyone around us in a pleasant mood and zero obstructions to doing our tasks. Lunch would be delicious and unhurried. Afternoons would be filled with polite conversation and a sense of accomplishing more than we ever imagined. We wouldn’t need to wait in line or at traffic lights. We might find dinner already prepared at home or a surprise dessert from a neighbor on the doorstep. The rest of the evening would be spent having a delightful time with family, friends, or even a good book. Evening prayer-time would find us deeply contented with joy and hopefulness for tomorrow, and we’d sink into bed feeling completely fulfilled. “What a wonderful, frustration-free life,” we’d think, and fall happily to sleep.
My hope is that each of us experiences such a day at least part of the time, but the reality is that most of us will undergo a litany of daily hassles. If it were not the case, there would be no such things as, for example, psychological studies on daily hassles or tests about workplace stress. The American Institute of Stress has published a screening survey with eight areas of workplace pressures: unsafe conditions, too much work with unreasonable deadlines, unsympathetic supervisors, job impingement on family life, inadequate control over responsibilities, inadequate rewards for good performance, and the inability to use talents and skills to one’s best ability on the job. The LIVES Daily Hassles Scale contains items related to five broad areas of small life stressors, including physical/mental health issues, professional security, relational conflicts, environmental security, and financial issues. These seemingly small stressors can add up and inhibit life satisfaction.
Yes, each day the world hands us frustrating packaging. The world also suggests a host of ways to deal with these packages, some of which are liable to cause even more frustrations and even outright damage to the precious contents inside. As followers of Christ, how are we to deal with these daily irritants, especially when they come in the form of conflicts with other people? How can we employ God’s word to soothe our distresses and avoid further damage to our packages?
Realize that God Cares
We may be tempted to think that God is not interested in these nuisances that fill our daily lives, but that is not the case. Psalm 34:19 tells us that the Lord delivers us out of all our afflictions. Jesus assured us that the Father is aware of how much hair we are losing (Luke 12:7). He is aware of each minute thing that troubles us, and He “delivers us out of them all.”
“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend.” Jesus waits with anticipation to answer our prayers. He cares about us and also about how we represent Him to others, so He is intimately concerned with the daily issues that vex us. We can safely throw all our cares on Him (Psalm 55:22; I Peter 5:7). The whole idea of prayer without cessation is a testament to how many daily hassles we encounter and also to life’s bigger issues as well (I Thessalonians 5: 17).
Take a Heart Inventory
It is important to take a heart inventory to understand how our own responses to stressors contribute to our problems. Am I overreacting? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I feeling insecure? Bigger heart questions might ask whether I have held a resentful attitude toward someone. Remembering that “a little talk with Jesus makes it right” can afford us great peace. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” is a potent promise in such times (Psalm 51:10).
Take Responsible Action
After you’ve prayed and done all you can on your own side of the issue, it may be time to take appropriate action steps. Assessing the situation from an objective standpoint and talking it over with trusted allies creates a safe check for any further action. Do you need to have a heart-to-heart with someone? Will you need a third-party mediator to assist you? Looking at all the possible outcomes, including the worst ones, will help you weigh the risks and understand whether or not taking action will lead to the desired outcome. Is forgiveness a better idea? Find the balance between how much you will tolerate and where your boundary lines are. Sometimes taking the risk is worth it, but on the other hand, it is important to learn to get along with others and to manage stress no matter where you are. Hassles pop up everywhere. Be wise about exchanging one set of hassles for another in a new environment.
Capture a Larger Vision
Sometimes it is best to seek a higher purpose if you find your circumstance less ideal than you’d hoped. Pray that God gives you a higher vision for your situation. Let God reveal to you the reason He has you there, which may not be what you originally thought. I believe God has allowed me to go through life or workplace hassles to help me see things in my life that need to change. After all, God is more interested in our character development than in our skill set. Asking God to replace our weaknesses with His attributes will go far to alleviate our problems.
Conflict Resolution and Moving On
In some cases, God may lead us to seek conflict resolution, counseling, or to take extreme measures such as leaving an unsafe situation. While these options represent the worst-case scenarios, the peace that passes understanding makes doing so worthwhile. If possible, wait until you have a bird in hand before taking any drastic steps. The best advice I’ve heard for such extreme actions is to not burn any bridges. Psalm 37:9 warns us to refrain from anger. When we “seek peace and pursue it,” God will bless our journey all the more (Psalm 34:14b).
 Udayer, Shagini, et al. “The LIVES Daily Hassles Scale and Its Relationship to Life Satisfaction.” Assessment. (October 18, 2021). DOI: 10.1177/10731911211047894.
 Ellen G. White. Steps to Christ. Grantham, UK: Stanborough Press, 1893, 93.
Melissa Brotton teaches writing and literature courses at La Sierra University. Her special areas are nineteenth-century British literature and religious studies. She has published on the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Biblical ecology. She spends a lot of time outdoors, paints, and writes nature stories and poems.