O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. “Help! Murder!” I cry, but no one comes to save. Must I forever see this sin and sadness all around me? Habakkuk 1:2-3a TLB
Some of us have seen or experienced things in our lives that have produced a level of disappointment with God. He hasn’t come through in the way we thought He should.
When you stop and consider why we’re disappointed with God, it comes down to two questions, both are difficult to answer.
1. Why did this happen?
In his book When God Doesn’t Make Sense Dr. James Dobson writes …
“The human spirit is capable of withstanding enormous discomfort, including the prospect of death, if the circumstances make sense. Many martyrs, political prisoners, and war heroes have gone to their graves willingly and confidently. They understood the sacrifice they were making and accepted its meaning in their lives …. Their attitude appears to be, “the cause for which I’m risking my life is more than justified.”
He concludes, those who become “confused and disillusioned with God have no such consolation. It is the absence of meaning that makes their situation so intolerable.”
2. Where is God?
This is maybe even more troubling than the “why” question. Where is God while all this terrible stuff is happening? Why doesn’t He do something?
James Dobson says,
“The greatest frustration is knowing that God … could rescue … could heal … could save. But why won’t He do it? This sense of abandonment is a terrible experience [especially] for someone whose entire being is rooted in the Christian ethic. Satan then whispers, ‘He is not there! You are alone!’”
Disappointment with God is rooted in the “why” and “where” questions that seemingly have no answer. Although there are no easy answers, here are four critical truths that we need to hang on to.
1. God loves you.
2. Despite all appearances to the contrary, God is in control. Theologians call this “the sovereignty of God.”
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV
3. God desires to deepen the faith of His followers. Faith, according to the Bible
… is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see … Hebrews 11:1 NIV
If you have all the answers – you don’t need faith. In fact, the more answers you have, the less faith you need. And that’s not good because, as that scripture goes on to say, without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6
Or as James Dobson puts it:
“the determination to believe when proof is not provided and questions are not answered is central to our relationship with God.”
4. God does not owe us answers.
This is really the clincher and by far the easiest to forget and the most difficult to come to terms with. James Dobson says
“We must never forget that He, after all, is God. He is accountable to no one. He is not a genie who pops out of the bottle to satisfy our whims. He is not our servant – we are His. Sometimes He performs mighty miracles on our behalf. Sometimes He chooses to explain His action in our lives. But at other times when nothing makes sense – when what we are going through is ‘not fair’ – He simply says, ‘[I am God.] Trust Me!'”
Or put it another way He’s God and we aren’t. God is a good God, not necessarily a ‘nice’ God. Unfortunately for our need to understand, when it comes to dealing with disappointment, the first thing we need to do is to admit that our ability to understand is limited.
Sometimes life throws up things that are just too big for us, it is not sinful simply to be unable to cope.
When we start reaching for answers out of our own experience or understanding, we risk dehumanising ourselves and others who suffer, and being insulting to God. We can suggest answers that allow us to come to terms with something, but do not take into account what the consequences are either to ourselves or those who also have to live through suffering. Alternatively we can explain things in a way that is not consistent with the character of God.
So what do we say when we are disappointed with God? Are we willing to be like Job, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” We can either accept despair, or accept God’s sovereignty. Those are the alternatives … but there is a challenging journey in between.
So that’s the bottom line, it’s a choice of trust or despair. Are we going to trust the God who loves us, who’s in control, who wants to deepen our faith – or are we going to live a life of despair over questions that we can’t answer?
It’s a really tough choice at times, but it is our choice, no-one else’s. We may need God’s help to be able to choose and that help comes through fellowship and accountability with each other. If we are not honest about where we are, we find life’s circumstances much more overpowering.
If we ignore our disappointment, we lose an effective means of God communicating with us;
“God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” C.S. Lewis – The Problem of Pain
When God Doesn’t Make Sense, Dr. James Dobson © Living Books Inc
© Paul Wood