Dan Carpenter had a frustrating day, and the video illustrates his feelings. He is dealing with a bruised nose and a bruised ego this week. The Buffalo Bills, like my Dallas Cowboys, weren’t playing for a spot in the playoffs because they were already out. Carpenter is the place kicker for the Bills and, like the other players, was probably playing for a spot on next year’s roster. He missed the extra point in Sunday’s game—his sixth miss of the season. I like the face of the guy sitting on the bench behind him. No words were necessary.

Missing an extra point for an NFL place kicker is like a preacher misquoting John 3:16… it is not supposed to happen. The NFL did change the rules this year and Carpenter, like all of his fellow kickers, has been forced to kick those extra points an additional thirteen yards. Carpenter is thirty years old, practically retirement age in his line of work, and it is hard to relearn old habits. Nevertheless, it might be a good idea for Dan and his wife to line up a good realtor. The NFL has not shown him much grace in the past. Carpenter was cut from the Miami Dolphins just days before his first child was due to be born.

Sometimes the realities of everyday life can mount up and cause high levels of frustration. Some troubles seem to impact every moment of the day. Troubles might relate to our own choices or can be caused by other people. Either way, troubles often turn our thoughts to God.

“God, why have you let this happen?” “God, it is tough living in a fallen world—will you help me live for you faithfully?” “God, why am I suffering when you know it is her fault?” “God, will you give me peace so I don’t blow up in anger?” “God, what lesson are you trying to teach me through this time?” “God, why do I do such dumb stuff when I know better?” I have asked all of those questions and I’ll probably ask every one of them again at some point.

What does the Bible teach us to do with the frustrations that come our way? My favorite lesson on the subject came from Jesus. He was speaking to his disciples, explaining that things were not going to turn out like they had been thinking. Jesus had not come to be a ruling, political authority who would overthrow the Roman government. Those disciples were not going to rise to powerful positions in an earthly kingdom. Jesus would be the suffering servant predicted by Isaiah. Jesus didn’t come to make our earthly lives easy; he came to make our eternal lives possible.

Jesus never promised that our faith would make life on earth healthy, wealthy, and wonderful. In fact, Jesus promised the opposite. He told his disciples, and us: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We were never promised frustration free, trouble free lives. We were promised tribulation and the peace of Christ for those times. Our joy is not supposed to be in the comforts of this world. Our joy is in the promise of a perfect heaven.

The year looms large in front of us and it is filled with every possibility. Christians have the same promises for this life as everyone else on planet Earth. We will catch colds, rear-end people on the freeway, trip over stumps, and say dumb things this year. We will also be living examples of the power and peace of God if we handle our promised “tribulations” with the grace and dignity that God will provide. It will help us to remember that our goals aren’t focused on the stuff of this world. Jesus set our aspirations much higher and then made it possible for us to attain those dreams. 2016 will be a great year if we memorize and believe this old refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.

I hope if the Buffalo Bills are planning to cut Dan Carpenter they will go ahead and let him know. Maybe he will get a spot playing for the Arizona Cardinals and not have to spend another winter in Buffalo. That reminds me of another great verse for frustrating times: “For God works all things for the good for those who love him and are called to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God’s purpose—now that is a great goal for Dan Carpenter and everyone else in 2016!

 


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