I write this article for myself as much as for anyone, because over the past thirty-odd years of ministry I have become disappointed with God. At least, that’s how I expressed it at the time. I prayed, I planned, I promoted … and somehow things just did not prosper as I thought they should have. I have counseled many people over the years about job loss, marital issues, terminal illnesses, wayward children, all sorts of addictions, and inevitably I hear people say how disappointed they are — even angry — with God. We tell ourselves that we did all the “right things,” and yet we still experience traumatic loss or failure. Where is God? Why didn’t He come through for us?
For some, the disappointment eventually fades, for others it deepens into anger and resentment or despair. This article is not to “judge” or condemn anyone. I have struggled in this area too. My attempt here is merely to analyze what makes us do this, and to bring a little hope to those who are currently struggling with a belief that God has let them down.
1. We have unrealistic expectations.
I read that an expectation is a gap between what we expect and what we experience. Years ago I asked my then 88-year-old evangelist friend, Michael Guido, how he could keep such a good attitude — especially when he was personally going through some tough times. He smiled and said, “I expect nothing.”
He realized that this world owes him nothing. And honestly, God owes us nothing. If I got what I deserved from God, I would be in hell. But entirely because of His grace — hell is cancelled for me and I have eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9). His grace is not something I am “owed,” however. My friend reminded me that each day was a gift, and we all have a choice in how we are to respond to its challenges.
Think about our unrealistic expectations for a minute. Do you expect to retire with lots of money? Do you expect to enjoy good health forever? Do you expect each day to be painless and carefree? Why do you do that? What in your experience has led you to believe that you should expect any of this?
No one has a carefree life, no matter how much money or fame or power they have. (In many cases, the people with tons of money and fame have had miserable lives. I think of the tragic ends of Robin Williams or Heath Ledger, for example.) No one gets out of this life pain free. None of us will escape death. Even God Himself when He walked this earth allowed His creation to put Him on trial, mock Him, and torture Him to death on a cross. Why should my life be exempt from suffering?
Tragically, some Christians erroneously believe that God’s will is for all Christians to always be physically healed, if they have “enough faith.” (I’ve often wondered, “Does it take more faith to be healed than it does to be saved?”) Supposedly, it is God’s will that all believers be healthy and wealthy.
2. The “prosperity gospel” is false.
God may in fact heal us and bless us financially. Or He may not. One of the biggest lies in modern Christianity is the “Prosperity Gospel” of Kenneth Copeland, T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Hagin, Joel Osteen, and others in the “Word of Faith” theology. This heresy teaches that we can “claim” certain promises from God and thus get Him to heal us or do whatever else it is that we want (or demand).
I have written a critique of this twisted gospel in a previous PJ Media article, so I direct you there to see the weaknesses and distortions in that belief system.
All of God’s promises for physical healing were made to Israel only, under the Law of Moses. Consider Deuteronomy 7:12-15. Immediately following these promises are the commands to invade Canaan and wipe out the tribes dwelling there. Are we Israel under the Law? We are not under any commands to invade Canaan and wipe out anyone, nor are we Israel under the Law of Moses.
Those prosperity “health and wealth” preachers completely disregard the instances in the Bible of faithful people who were not healed (Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, and Trophimus in 2 Timothy 4:20). They also completely ignore that almost all the Apostles died martyr’s deaths (they did not have full bank accounts or golden chariots right before they were murdered), and that for the past 2,000 years Christianity has upheld the vast company of martyrs as the highest examples of Christian virtue and blessed living.
God does heal. He does bless financially. But He is under no obligation to do so for anyone, regardless of the amount of faith they have.
3. God does not raise brats.
What if God did give us everything we expected or demanded? What kind of people would that make us? What do you call someone who gets everything they want? A brat. The God of the Bible is not raising brats. He is raising disciples. Disciples are not created by picking up seashells in retirement. They are forged in the heat of combat (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
If life was all just a “bowl of cherries,” what would we ever learn about trusting God? Words like “perseverance,” “courage,” “strength,” “joy,” or “blessedness” would lose their meaning if we never had to fight, never had to lose, never had to suffer. But BECAUSE we have gone through the fire, we can know certain things about God that we never could have truly experienced on a deeper level.
I read on a Facebook post, “Some people create their own storms, and then are disappointed when it rains.” How true. People make bad decisions, don’t they? I know I have. Should we blame God for the things we have messed up and the consequences that followed?
This world is not “the good world.” It is a fallen, sinful world, and any goodness that I experience in this life I should breathe a quick prayer of gratitude to the God who gave it to me. And then look to others to see how I can be a blessing to them. Some day I will be in that “good world.” But now is not the time.
4. God gives us ways to handle disappointment.
The first thing I try to remind myself is that the failure I am faced with is an opportunity. God tells us in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. I believe that God is bigger than this loss I am facing, and if I am obedient to Him He will work good out of it somehow, some day.
I may never see the results this side of glory, but He will. I must trust Him with that. But I can use the present situation as a platform for ministry. Instead of saying, “Why God? Why did you let this happen to me?” (useless questions), I can ask “OK, God what do you want me to do now? How can I learn from this? Who do you want me to minister to?” God has never failed to direct me when I’ve asked those questions.
I learn that it’s OK to be down. Both Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-8) and Paul (Acts 27:20) despaired of life at certain times in their ministries! The Lord knows our frame. However, it’s not OK to stay there and wallow in misery. You can’t live this life alone. Get help. (If you are clinically depressed I do recommend professional medical help). But surround yourself with godly friends who will replenish your soul. Eliminate toxic relationships. Be in a group that will lovingly encourage you and hold you accountable.
Remember that our time on this earth is limited. The way things are now, they will not be forever. There will be an end to our disappointment, pain, and sorrow. In Revelation 2:10, Jesus told the church in Smyrna that they would have 10 days of tribulation. If Jesus says you will have 10 days, that means you will not have 11 or 12. There is a time limit set by an Almighty God, and no one can overrule Him.
Focus on getting through today, and focus on the goal line. Hebrews 12:1 keeps my goal sharply in focus: “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.”
I often think of my life as a book. It is easy to despair when we don’t know where we are in the story. We don’t know if we’re just a page or a whole chapter away from relief and victory. We often give up too soon, don’t we? The breakthrough could be just on the other side of the page, you know.
I believe this, and I believe that God is indeed writing my story — and no matter how defeated we feel today, I know that someday, the book will be finished and I will be in glory with the Lord forever, and all the disappointment and all the things I learned will be worth it all.