Living Christianity Blog

Frustration Does Not Justify Being Unmerciful

Written by Manuel Sánchez

Today it’s acceptable to show frustration when others make mistakes. But what does the Bible say about yielding to frustration and forgetting mercy?

A few weeks ago, I experienced incredible frustration in my work due to others’ mistakes. I felt so upset at one point that I wanted to punish them.  

Have you ever felt so frustrated that you’ve been tempted to endorse the excuse that “the end justifies the means” so that you can have things your way?

This experience forced me to question some of my deep inner thoughts and helped me face the reality that I shared some of the same faulty perspectives that Jonah showed when he seemed to desire the destruction of Nineveh.  

This frustrating experience made me reflect on my ability to show mercy to others. How should we respond to frustrating situations and the temptation to desire punishment over mercy?   

Jonah’s frustration

God gave Jonah the mission to preach repentance to the inhabitants of Nineveh before destruction came, but Jonah fled in the opposite direction to avoid God’s assignment (Jonah 1:1-3).

Though the Bible doesn’t state it explicitly, it seems Jonah may have desired the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. This makes sense, since the Assyrians were enemies of Israel.

Whatever Jonah’s motives, his refusal to obey God’s command to preach repentance to this prominent city exemplified his lack of mercy for those people. 

However, after being swallowed by the great fish, Jonah recognized his mistake. God showed him mercy through that ordeal by commanding the fish to vomit him out (Jonah 2:9-10). God then gave Jonah a second chance to fulfill the mission. God showed Jonah mercy—and, in the process, began teaching Jonah the importance of showing mercy to others.  

“It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

After Jonah preached to them, the inhabitants of Nineveh believed, fasted and made changes. Because of the changes these people made, God mercifully spared the city (Jonah 3:1-10). 

This didn’t please Jonah at all. He felt so discouraged and angry with God’s decision that he left the city and even wished to die (Jonah 4:1-3).

Jonah’s attitude may seem surprising and even ridiculous to us. Why did he get so upset with God and the situation? The truth is, we all sometimes struggle with the same issue Jonah did—lack of mercy. 

Mercy is greater than punishment

The last verses of this book record a great lesson God taught Jonah. After destroying a plant He created to shade Jonah, the Creator gave him time to reflect on his attitude (Jonah 4:6-8).

Jonah 4:10-11 says: “But the LORD said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?’”

Our world is not much different from the evil society of Nineveh. Most people today have yet to learn to spiritual discernment. Their eyes are spiritually blinded because God has not opened them. Can we become so frustrated and angry with people who follow evil that we hope they are punished? Is the frustration so intense that we neglect mercy?

We must not lose sight of what God plans to do with the world in the future through repentance. 

Find out more about this crucial event that will change humanity by reading our article “How Repentance Will Change the World.” 

God is merciful

Because He is merciful, God wants us to learn to show mercy to people—even in times of frustration. Jonah’s mistake of valuing punishment over mercy may seem childish, but in reality, we can all struggle with this same problem in our own way. If we wish evil and harm on people who make mistakes, then we fall into the same attitude.

Christians should not think this way. The danger of not controlling frustration and neglecting mercy alienates us from God and can keep us out of His Kingdom. God is all about mercifully saving the people of our world (1 Timothy 2:4). He shows abundant longsuffering toward all people (2 Peter 3:9). 

When we become frustrated with others, even with good cause, we must always overcome our anger and frustration quickly and seek to demonstrate the godly characteristic of mercy.

Manuel Sánchez is a member of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association in Trujillo, Peru.