Devotional · Stay Sane

Disappointment With God: The Root of Our Frustration

If we are honest with ourselves, we have all felt disappointment with God. This post discusses two roots of our frustration, and how to be united with Him.



Last week, when it was 50 degrees and raining instead of 30 degrees and snow whistling by my window (as it is today!), I had to run errands. About a block from my home I checked to see if my umbrella was in its regular spot.  Blast! Picture this: distracted woman patting the back of passenger seat then back of driver’s seat while keeping car in lane. Clear the road, people!!

Assuming said umbrella was missing, I angrily said the potty word that has gotten our President in so much trouble in recent days. At the traffic light, I twisted around to look in the back seat.  There in the floor lay my animal print umbrella. My, did I feel sheepish…and convicted.

After confessing my anger, I asked Jesus what was going on with my heart. I mean, it was drizzling, not monsoon season! There was no danger of me melting. To my surprise, immediately the word disappointment flashed in bold letters in my mind.  Disappointment vocationally; disappointment concerning my life’s mission/impact; disappointment in the distance between us and our grandchildren. And so began a day’s-long dialogue with the Spirit about disappointment.

I’m learning that I set myself up for disappointment in several ways. Then subtly, even subconsciously, I blame God. I’m sure I’m not alone. David and other Psalmists complained often to God about situations that seemed unfair, (Ps. 13, for example). Phillip Yancey wrote a book about disappointment with God in 1997 with an update 25 years later. It sold well. Although Christians would rather not admit it, it seems fair to say there are periods in most of our lives when we feel disappointment with God.

But why?

Skewed Expectations

One reason, I believe, is because of our expectations of Jesus. Paul warned the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:4 of falling prey to “another Jesus,” or a “different gospel”. Sometimes, our expectations or the expectations of our church doctrine may cloud our judgement regarding the genuine identity of Jesus. It isn’t as though false expectations are a new thing – the disciples walked daily with Jesus for three years and were completely unprepared for His death and resurrection! (They were still expecting an earthly king.) If I am worshiping a nicer Jesus, a cooler Jesus, a more culture-current Jesus rather than the Jesus of the Gospels, my expectations are askew. I am guaranteed disappointment because I’m dealing in fiction rather than faith.

I appreciate how Frederick Buechner described faith in Secrets in the Dark:

Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, and orderly, whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises…faith is a stranger and exile on the earth and doesn’t know for certain about anything. [Hebrews 11] Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting. Faith is journeying through space and through time…When faith stops changing and growing, it dies on its feet.

And I might add, we begin to operate in “another Jesus” mentality.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have all felt disappointment with God. This post discusses two roots of our frustration, and how to be united with Him.

Selfish Motivation

Secondly, as much as I would like to see my prayers as selfless, my ‘disappointment inventory’ revealed that some of my prayers are my own plans, which I then hand to God for His stamp of approval. He can work out the details. (Ouch!) I’ve handed my heart over to dreams or plans which I’ve emotionally tucked away, out of sight, then wonder why Jesus doesn’t ‘come through’ with the realized answer! The answer lies with my motives and my heart, not God’s supposed stubbornness or failure to hear. I love what Thomas Merton said in an address to novices:

If I love God, I’ve got to love him with my heart.  If I love him with my heart, I’ve got to have a heart, and I’ve got to have it in my possession to give. One of the most difficult things in life today is to gain possession of one’s heart in order to be able to give it. We don’t have a heart to give. We have been deprived of these things, and the first step in the spiritual life is to get back what we have to give. (The Promise of Paradox)

When I have given my heart to my own ideas, plans, or dreams, it’s impossible to give it fully to Jesus. I may be pitching prayers up concerning these things, but I doubt they are making it past the ceiling. Scripture is clear about who gets first dibs on my heart. Deuteronomy 6:5, which is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 22:37, speak clearly concerning where my heart belongs, yet I feel it tugged in many other directions in this maddening world.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV

How can I lay my heart at the feet of my Lord, when it is a divided thing? How can I expect Him to answer prayers that are often, at most, spiritualized personal plans or at worst, self promotional?

If we are honest with ourselves, we have all felt disappointment with God. This post discusses two roots of our frustration, and how to be united with Him.

United

Thank God for His steadfast love which endures forever (Psalm 100:5 ESV)! I am grateful that we have a high priest who understands my weaknesses and forgives me (Hebrews 4:15).

I am continuing to pray for my heart to be united in my love for and faith in Jesus.  May any dreams or plans I have be God ordained.

Faith is a way of waiting – never quite knowing, never quite hearing or seeing, because in the darkness we are all but a little lost. There is doubt hard on the heels of every belief, fear hard on the heels of every hope, and many holy things lie in ruins because the world has ruined them and we have ruined them. But faith waits even so… (Secrets in the Dark)


If you have interest in the books mentioned, please consider purchasing them through these affiliate links. A small portion will go to help support this ministry at no extra cost to you:

Disappointment With God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud

Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life


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If we are honest with ourselves, we have all felt disappointment with God. This post discusses two roots of our frustration, and how to be united with Him.

Daniel Kainz

Written by Dodie
I’m a happy wife, loving mom of 3, and adoring grandmother of 6, and owner of an adorable Cocker Spaniel. I began blogging in 2016, when, in the midst of completing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, I began radiation treatment for breast cancer. It became a good outlet for me to connect with other survivors and a also good way to let friends and family know what I was experiencing.

Life is a journey full of interesting, surprising, heartbreaking and fun things.

19 thoughts on “Disappointment With God: The Root of Our Frustration

  1. I’m moved by this! It really helped me reflect on my heart and how much is genuinely focussed on Christ. I find this also helpful for relationships. Any type of false or unfair expectation, leads to disappointment. I’ve mostly experienced this in marriage. When I let go of my selfishness I end up happier and more forgiving! Thank you for sharing Dodie! <3

    1. Katie, I have to admit that most of the problems I’ve had with my husband AND my heavenly Father have been related to unrealistic or false expectations…even after all these years! I don’t say that to discourage you, but to ENcourage you that we must stay open to the Spirit’s nudges when we find ourselves discouraged or frustrated in either relationship. 🙂

  2. Ugh, disappointment, it’s never fun. I love how you pressed into the Spirit as disappointment came rushing into your heart. I know I need to take the time to do more of that. Our plans, our timing, are never usually His. But when we truly surrender to Him, we can find peace, satisfaction, and joy!

    1. So true. As you so eloquently said, the more I press into His Spirit, into His tender embrace, I can more easily recognize the false ‘Jesus’ I have fallen for.

  3. “As much as I would like to see my prayers as selfless, my ‘disappointment inventory’ revealed that some of my prayers are my own plans, which I then hand to God for His stamp of approval. ” So true!

    1. Right?! Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts…(Ps.139:23). He is ready and waiting to reveal my true motives when I am ready to hear it!

  4. This is such a great point! Disappointment is inevitable when we have skewed perceptions of what we think should happen – with our spouse, relationships, work, kids, and God. We need to dig into God to understand what our role is and how God wants us to proceed. Not blaming others and Him for the “unfairness” or “injustice” of the situation.

    1. I believe we all have ‘spiritual baggage’ or relational baggage that we unconsciously we attempt to place onto our perception of Jesus. He tenderly strips it away as we spend more intimate time with Him. That generally takes care of the blame-game. 😉

  5. You’re right about disappointments. It’s what I want and not part of God’s will. I need to realign myself with Him so that I’m wanting what is part of His will!
    Great post!

    1. I don’t disagree with that assessment, Alice. We are all so fearfully and wonderfully made! Yet, at some point along the journey, we each must come to accept the root of our disappointment with God.

  6. “Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.” I love that. I love it all but – faith is waiting – that’s resonating with me.

  7. Unlike the prosperity gospel brush strokes faith, this write up has definitely shown justice to portraying the God-kind of Faith.

    “One of the most difficult things in life today is to gain possession of one’s heart in order to be able to give it.” wow to this!

  8. It can be so easy to set ourselves up for disappointment. I usually do this by putting my faith in people instead of in God. By setting up expectations outside of God’s will. It’s so important to realign ourselves to His Will.

    1. How insightful, Heather! Don’t most of us have a tendency to put our trust in man whom we see rather than in God, who is unseen? It is indeed vital to daily come into His presence so that we may know Him in a deep and intimate way. That is the only way our hearts will be guarded…

  9. Here we go not trying to be negative and blame everyone for some of life’s simple problem. But dealing with real disappointments in life and in god.
    This is my story it started off at a young age my I lost my father by 7 years old I had a baby brother at 2 and a older sister at 10. So I lost my father I was in second grade and I didn’t do good with it, I had to repeat the second grade, all my friends at the time moved on, but I got a start over hard for a child I didn’t understand. He died on Dec. 4 I made through school, never failed again. As a young man I never got in any trouble but I drank and I drank to much . I met girls but I never trusted anyone I was always afraid of losing them , so I back off of getting married. I met a girl things where good we talked about it, I came home from work and found all my stuff outside. Still to this day I never talked with her about it, ,at the time my best friend was my brother. He put me up only for 1 day he had his own family and just bought a house. Michelle left me in Sept. and by Nov. my brother committed suicide Niagara falls, it took 9 days before his body was found , the day we got the call was Thanksgiving at 11:30 p.m.
    So I closed down for a couple years I lost my world within 3 months .
    I got back into the grove started working again I’m a electrician so I never had a hard time finding work. I was doing great, I was a foreman running crew doing a large job for Waiste management. But I had a major accident, I was set on fire both hands and one arm . I had second and third degree burns spent two week in ICU I had skin graft’s . It took me three months before I could open a bottle of water, but I made it back to work after 6 months off .
    That was 8 year ago. On Dec. 5th of this year I had a finger ripped off my body. I have disappointment in GOD I’ve seen and felt major trauma to my body and mind. I wish this was only a bad dream it’s been a bad life.
    I’m the guy you meet that makes you feel good about yourself that’s without my life story, In the end of my life and life’s story my question for GOD is why all the years of suffering ? At this point in my life I’m not afraid of death or pain for I’ve had my fair share. This is why I’m disappointed in life and GOD
    RICH

  10. Dear child of God, I was deeply saddened as I read your response to the blog I wrote. Although each life has had its own share of hard edges and cliffs, sadness and deep disappointments, I would never compare sorrows or loss with someone else. To say that I am sorry for your many losses sounds impotent, I confess. “Sorry,” is too weak to cover your pain with any relief. However, while your anger at God is palpable, I’ve known Him through my personal sorrow to be a compassionate God. His Son Jesus was called a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3,) and He gave His Spirit to be our Comforter. You can read that in John 14:16.
    One day, Rich, I pray that you will know His comfort and compassion. When you do, you will be such a mighty, powerful voice for all the many, many others who are suffering… because truly, no one can speak to suffering unless he has entered it himself.

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