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.
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.
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?
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:
If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…