When God Disappoints You: Thoughts for the New Year

Have you ever felt disappointed in God? I have.

I was disappointed that Anah was (and still is) so difficult. I felt like He had tricked me with this cute picture of her, tugging at the heartstrings of all of us.

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Awww….Yeah, me too.

We made a lot of assumptions about her from this picture. Simple assumptions, like because she is five years old, she is toilet trained. (She wasn’t.)

My biggest assumption? I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s about the light in her eyes. This picture made me think that I would be able to reason with her, teach her, and eventually converse with her.

But more often than not, we get a look like this. Especially when she’s sick with a cold and she’s congested and breathing through her mouth, with snot and drool leaking out as well.

This is Anah and my oldest, Janna, on the day we received her—Sept. 17, 2012.

This is Anah and my oldest, Janna, on the day we received her—Sept. 17, 2012.

Blank.

The first picture does not tell us that I cannot reason with Anah. It does not tell me that to learn something will take years—and sometimes after all our hard work and energy, when we think she’s got it, it doesn’t stick and we need to retrain all over again. This picture does not tell me that our “conversations” are rote phrases that we have taught her to say.

God, this is not what I thought this would be! I didn’t sign up for this!

The disappointment was severe.

And so was my anger at Him.

For the past six years, I have struggled a lot with my faith. It was not a smooth journey of joy.

In fact, it was UGLY. It is embarrassing to even recall my private moments.

But disappointment—and the anger at Him that accompanied it—implies that God has failed to meet a promise, that He somehow has betrayed my trust.

Over the past few months, He has shown me that I got a few things wrong.

I thought He abandoned me. Instead He reminded me that He has lovingly stood by me. I was the one who pushed Him away.

I thought He was drumming His fingers at my stupidity. Instead, He showed me how He has patiently waited for me to see the truth—about myself, about Anah. I was the one who refused to see it.

I thought He was punishing me. Instead, He revealed to me how He has constantly shown me mercy and grace. I was the one who did not realize it. He did not give me what I do deserve for my pride and instead showered goodness on me when I was at my worst.

Things have been a lot better in the past few months. Counseling has helped. Many of you have been praying for me. The Lord has heard and is answering your prayers. Thank you.

Now that the dust has settled, I am starting to understand something I did not understand before. Something vital for those of us who call ourselves children of God and yet find ourselves feeling disappointed—or even angry—with Him.

It is this:

He never promised that following Him would be easy.

There is nowhere in Scripture that tells us this earthly life is going to be heavenly.

In fact, He says the opposite.

He tells us that there will be thorns and thistles, pain in childbirth, and a curse on the earth. He tells us we will have an enemy, and we will die one day. (Gen. 3:14-19)

Not a great start, eh?

The rest of Scripture illustrates this in graphic detail: war, rape, destruction, betrayal. You name it, it’s in there.

Jesus Himself, the perfect Son of God, tells us that in this world there will be trouble. (John 16:33) He told us that that if we are to follow Him, we need to pick up our cross—an instrument of shameful torture—and follow Him. (Mark 8:34)

And then He Himself does that very thing, executed on that same instrument for a crime He did not commit. For me. For you.

No, this world is not a fair place.

But He never promised that it would be.

When I felt disappointment and anger at God, I realized that I was the one who got it wrong.

I thought that because we were obeying Him in adopting Anah, that everything would be smooth sailing. Sure, there might be some hiccups along the way, but they would be minor and He’ll take care of them. It will be easy—like an Anne of Green Gables experience.

But He never promised that. I just made that assumption about God, like I made the assumption about Anah. He has not betrayed me. He has done me no wrong.

But He has promised a future glory—a new heaven and a new earth, hope beyond this life, an eternity with Him where all tears are wiped away, where there is no mourning, crying, or pain, where death will be no more, where life will be made new. (Rev. 21:3-5)

That is all coming. It’s just not here yet. I am the one who has mistaken that the eternal hope He promises is for life here on earth today.

This doesn’t mean we must stoically submit to the evils of this world like martyrs. Quite the contrary. He has promised us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), grace sufficient for our weakness (2 Cor 12:9), a way of escape when we are tempted to despair (1 Cor. 10:13), and victory in the end (Rom 8:37). Though we live in this painful world, He has not abandoned us, but rather, has given us a new—albeit narrow—road to take through it.

No, He did not promise me—He did not promise us, the Church, his body—that life here will be free of disappointments. He has not betrayed us because He did not promise a life of ease here.

But He has promised us all we need to live well, love well, and to persevere, endure, and triumph in the end.

Are you struggling as this year comes to an end? Instead of a brand new start, are you feeling disappointment that the past year was not what you wanted it to be? Maybe your hopes have been dashed too?

If so, I encourage you to honestly bring that disappointment to Him. Don’t do what I did and shroud your heart in your pain.

The God who made you, orchestrates your life and all that goes on in this earth, understands. He who came at Christmas to enter our sadness fully knows how disappointing life here is.

And then, would you join me in looking to Him in faith for the year to come?

I don’t know what the future holds for you or for me. There could be joys—or there could be more sorrows.

But whatever the future holds, let us look to our Father in faith. He has not promised an easy life here, but He has promised us Himself and a life to come that will be everything we long for.

We have to wait for it. It’s coming one day. Let’s make sure our hope is in the right place.

When it is, we will find our greatest joy in Him alone, no matter what disappointments come our way.

God bless you in this year to come. Thank you for reading.  

Update, 1/3/2019: This truth was one of the ideas that impacted me from David Powlison’s Good and Angry. Disappointment with God can often lead us to a multitude of angry responses. I highly recommend this book and encourage you to check out my book review if you’d like to consider working through it.

Book Review: Good and Angry by David Powlison

Book Review: Good and Angry by David Powlison

The Strong, Sure, Steadfast Love of Jesus: Six Years With Anah