Faith, Pain and suffering

The God Who Disappoints

How does one reconcile this life’s journey with the God we read about in the Bible?

How do we reconcile the God who hears with a life that seems void of God’s presence?

How do we reconcile the God who sees with a life filled with untold pain?

How do we reconcile the God who heals with the death around us?

How do we reconcile the God who provides with the extreme need we experience each and every day?

The child estranged from his father who prays for forgiveness and a relationship with him…only to learn of his father’s unexpected and untimely death.

The wife who prays relentlessly for her straying husband to repent and come home…only to be served with divorce papers.

The father who wants nothing more than to be an active and involved participant in his kids’ lives…only to have them taken away during a bitter, ugly divorce.

The girl who asks God not to bring anyone into her life unless it’s the one she is to marry…only to have her first true love walk away.

The man who wants to provide for his family…only to be a casualty of the economic downturn.

The single mom who desperately wants to provide shoes and clothes for her children…only to have more month than money.

The Christian who longs to have a deeper walk with Christ…only to experience ongoing disappointments from God.

The parents who wait and hope for a perfect little girl…only to give birth to a severely mentally and physically handicapped child.

Let’s be honest: this conversation isn’t a nice, clean Christianity that we can tie up with a neat little bow. I love reading about the miracles others experience. Have you read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson? That’s the faith I want, the faith to circle my desires and pray until God brings them to fruition, to see modern-day miracles. I know God is still in the miracle business, and I want to be in on it!

But sometimes I’m more disappointed in the way God doesn’t answer my prayers.

I know all the perfect Christian answers.

God has something better for you.

It just wasn’t His will.

It’s not His timing.

All things work for good to those who love God.

His ways are higher than our ways.

Geez. I’ve given all those answers myself. I’ve been the one desperately looking for ways to encourage, to build up, to help someone I love out of the pit of despair and depression.

And simple little answers just don’t cut it in life’s deepest hurts.

I write these words with tears streaming down my face as I listen to the hurt of someone so dear to me, someone who feels as if his prayers are always unanswered. Honestly, it’s not even that the prayers are unanswered. It’s as if God takes delight in doing the exact opposite of what he asks. Every. Single. Time.

My heart aches. I have no words of wisdom or comfort. I hold him and tell him that God loves him like a good Father, like a Father who delights in giving Him good gifts.

But he can’t see it.

As I’ve walked this journey called life, I’ve come to understand the crisis of belief: that place where your faith is tested, where the rubber meets the road, and you learn whether you can trust God. It’s that place where you are taken to the brink of destruction and despair, and you find out whether God will meet you and rescue you. It’s a scary place, a place where you must walk in faith and not fear. It’s the moment when you must decide if you are going to trust God and walk in obedience, even when it seems like a dead-end road.

After years of experiencing God’s faithfulness, of seeing Him carry me through hurts and disappointments, I have a relative peace in the face of disappointment. I can look back over my life and see where He took the disappointments and gave me something far greater, going so far as to change my desires to His desires. I can see where He provided exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

But this is my life.

How do I translate that hope to someone who hasn’t experienced the fullness of God’s goodness and grace? How do I encourage that young person on the brink of throwing in his faith because of the overwhelming pain and disappointment? How do I translate what I’ve experienced to someone else?

Even as I grapple with these questions. Even as I struggle with how to share my faith with someone whose faith hasn’t been tested by the fire. Even as I struggle with the weight of the hurt and the pain.

I can see the future. I see the beauty God is bringing out of the ashes. I see the work He has started and I am so excited about what God is about to do in this precious life. I can see how this crisis of belief is about to give way to a faith that has been tested, that has been through the fire of purification. I know He is good. I know He is up to something. I know…

But until then, I cling to my faith. I cry with my precious loved one. I carry his pain. I beg God to do what only He can do, to do something so amazing that it could only come from the God of the universe.

And I cling to scripture, to His word that tells me His ways are higher than my ways. That all things work together for good. That He is the giver of good gifts. That we are His precious, dearly loved children. That God is faithful to do what He says He will do. That He sees our tears and holds them in His hand. That He hears our prayers and answers them. That He will set all things right and one day have us back on our feet for good.

I know that’s been my experience in the trials of this life. And if I know my God, He will come through again.

Will you pray with me?

Father, we read of your goodness and grace, your mercy and love. We read that you lavish those you love with your good gifts, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. But sometimes. Sometimes you seem so distant, so silent. Sometimes you see so cruel, so unloving. Sometimes in our humanity we simply can’t make sense of the pain we experience in this life. Help us. We don’t need to understand, but we need you. We need your presence. We need your peace. We need your healing touch. We need to see your faithfulness. Open our eyes to your work around us, to see the blessings that abound. Give us eyes to see the little ways you care for us. Look deeply at our hearts and see that we long to be closer to you, to experience you in all of your fullness. Honor our hearts. Honor our desires. Draw near to us as we beg to draw near to you. Only you, Lord, can take our crisis of belief and use it to take us deeper in our faith, to a deeper trust in you. We are yours. Do what only you can do…in us and through us.

 

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12 thoughts on “The God Who Disappoints”

  1. Earlier in my walk in the Lord, I realized that I trusted the Lord for this thing or that thing. But I did not really trust Him. I trusted Him to do things for me, but when He didn’t come through, my disappointments literally controlled me. Our Lord is good, He does good. He will always be good. Great, great, great post.

  2. i had prayed part of that prayer last week, a prayer to have greater faith and belief that He truly cares for me, and to see it. See, I believe, but I think I also operate on the belief He just doesn’t act for me. He CAN, but He doesn’t. I am so sorry you are going through such intense emotions. I will keep you in prayer this week Dena.

    1. It’s actually one of my children walking this painful path. My heart keeps saying there’s something better in store, but it’s hard to translate that hope, that faith to a teenager. We cover your prayers as you seem to know exactly how he feels. 

      Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  3. It can be painful when it seems as if our prayers are not answered, but by no means ought we to give up. It is then that our faith becomes faith, and our trust deepens in the Omnipotent God.
    A verse I find helpful when my prayers do not seem to be answered is Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Our desires should be to please Him in all things; when our desire consists of His will, then our desires shall be fulfilled. Much easier said than done, and assuredly aligning our wills to His cannot be accomplished overnight.

    2 Corinthians 12:9 also gives us strength. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” It is when we feel weak that we are then made strong in His Grace. When our prayers seem unanswered, sometimes it might be because He wants to show us that it is by His grace that we are made strong, and we must learn to trust Him and not ourselves.

  4. Yes, this is the story of my life and my family. I do see some things God has done, yet I also see great needs that I’m still waiting for God to come thru. Things have definitely not turned out life I had hoped. I keep encouraging myself in the Lord, standing on his promises. 🙏🦋

  5. Hi Dena,

    I am sorry to hear that your son is going through such disappointment. That is really hard, especially when someone is young and hasn’t yet had much time in life to watch God work.

    One thing that may help in dealing with painful situations in which we don’t understand God’s allowing it is to hang on to the fact that Jesus lived on the earth as a man and suffered the same difficulties and temptations we do (Hebrews 4:14-5:11; especially 4:15-16 and 5:7-8). When things get hard, it is so easy for me to start viewing God as either observing me but being removed from it all or as understanding it and in control of it in an omnipotent way but not in it with me (both false). But when I know that Jesus experienced those same types of things AS A HUMAN, it makes a big difference. Jesus, in His earthly life, chose to be put through the same pain we go through.

    We don’t get full explanations for pain that is not a personal consequence, which can be very difficult. We do get a record (scripture)of what God says about His own character and of how God has dealt with people – His own people and those who rejected Him. But we also get two other things. We get a Savior who chose to walk our path before dying for our sin (and of all the human paths to walk, His was very difficult). We also get the indwelling Holy Spirit Who has promised to never leave us, to comfort us, to convict us, to guide us, to help us in prayer, etc.

    Jesus is not removed from our pain. He experienced our difficulty as a human; He experienced our sin and punishment on the cross; He has permanently united Himself with His children so that currently, immediately, our pain is His.

    We are never fools to believe in His goodness, in His good character, when everything around us seems opposed to it. We will not be ultimately disappointed with this kind of faith (Hebrews 11). Our faith in God’s good character, in His faithfulness to us, has opportunity to grow when circumstances say otherwise. We can ask for help in the choice to believe (Mark 9:24).

    One really good book that nails this concept is “Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Lives” by Elise Fitzpatrick.

    Thank you for your posts.

    Jennifer

  6. I am at the place right now where trusting God is such a challenge. My husband of 20 years had an affair with a girl half my age 2 years ago. He promised to end the affair but I discovered today that he is still communicating with her. I also realised my husband used family funds on this girl. My husband has mentally and emotionally abused me for at least 16 years.
    I am not sure what to do. Most of our marriage my husband neglected me and I was pretty much on my own. Everyday I regret that I married him. My pastor advised me to leave my husband. I am afraid of being alone.
    You often write that God will redeem those whose lives have been wrecked by abuse. I want to believe this but my husband has been treacherous for so many years and I dont see anything changing..

    1. Sweet friend, I’ve been there. I was the heartbroken wife, terrified of being alone. But you know what? God sustained me. He’s done more than help me survive…He’s made me thrive. We (my children and I) are stronger, more confident. Our faith has been tested and tried. Despite the pain, we’ve had this beautiful story of redemption where God’s blessings have been overwhelming. I wouldn’t trade this painful journey for anything!!

  7. Thank you for your transparency and honesty in this post. This is where I have been for the past year. Wondering many times, “Do You even see? Do You care?” Struggling with unbelief. Declaring, “Though He slay me, I will trust Him.” Repeating to myself, “No matter what.” But praying and not seeing anything get better. Oftentimes seeing things get worse. But I continue to pray that He will help my unbelief, and, like you, I pray that He opens my eyes to see all the ways He is working that I overlook and miss. He is good; He is faithful. He knows the way that I take, and when He has tried me, I will come forth as gold.

    1. Yes, Mickie! My oldest goes off to OBU this fall. I’m praying God does such a mighty work in Him, taking all of his pain and using it to solidify his faith. It’s been such an ugly season—a season that has lasted over half of his life—and it pains me to see him hurt. But I trust. I trust my Savior to do such a mighty work in Him so He can do a mighty work through him. I trust He pulls you through, too—tested and tried and purified. Hugs sweet friend!

  8. I just loved your post. You are so strong to hold on to God during your testing. I want to be strong too and be able to trust God and not let the disappointments in life crush me.
    I have lived in an abusive situation for so many years that I have started to think that God expects me to be strong and learn to live with it. Because nothing has changed I feel that God is okay with what my husband does.Sometimes I even think that perhaps what my husband does is not so serious after all and maybe I am over reacting.
    I too want a story of redemption in my life as I feel desolation. I want to cling on to God no matter how my life is and eventually turns out.
    L.C

    1. Hang in there, sweet friend. God will give you strength to make it through this season of life and give you the redemption story you want. It may not look anything like you want, but it will be beautiful!

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