We all experience disappointment. We are disappointed by things, by events, and by people. But sometimes we’re even disappointed by God. We’re going to talk about what to do when God disappoints, or when God just doesn’t make sense.
Nobody likes to talk about being disappointed with God. About ten years ago I bought a book called Disappointment with God, and I need to tell you that I was shocked by the title. How could anyone claim to be disappointed with God? It almost seemed sacrilegious. After I finished the book, I gave it to a friend who told me that he doubted that the author truly believed in God. In his mind, you either believed in God or you didn’t. And if you believed in God, then you never questioned God – never. To question God would be unthinkable.
But let’s be honest. We all have unanswered questions. We look around and see things that aren’t fair. A child falls from a twenty-one-story balcony while the babysitter looks away for a minute. Three children suffocate after accidentally locking themselves in a chest. More than five people die after drinking contaminated tap water. We experience miscarriages, firings, illnesses, and accidents. And many of us ask – perhaps only silently – why God would allow it to happen.
Why do we experience disappointment? Four reasons:
1. BECAUSE PEOPLE LET US DOWN
Next week we begin to look at the life of a man we learn about in the Bible. His name was Joseph. Next week’s message is on “How to Handle Betrayal.” Talk about a man who was let down by others. His brothers sold him into slavery. He was falsely accused of a serious crime. A man who could have helped him get out of jail forgot all about him. The first forty years of Joseph’s life it was downhill the whole way. If anybody had the right to complain, it was Joseph. Joseph was disappointed by people. People will let you down.
Psalm 55 expresses the hurt that we feel when friends let us down: “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend” (Psalm 55:12-13). It hurts us to the bone when people let us down – especially someone close to us.
There’s a second reason why we experience disappointment:
2. BECAUSE CIRCUMSTANCES LET US DOWN
Sometimes we’re disappointed and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just that circumstances let us down. Circumstances can cause us to lose hope and to doubt our dreams. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.” Circumstances can make our hearts sick. They can cause the dreams within us to die.
We’re all familiar with Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will – and at the worst possible moment.” Murphy’s Law is in full effect. If a piece of toast falls to the ground, it will always fall peanut butter first. If you arrive on time for a meeting, the other person will be late. But occasionally the circumstance will be more severe. A car may swerve into your lane. A tree may fall the wrong way. The unthinkable might happen. Circumstances may cause you to be disappointed.
Here’s the third reason why we are sometimes disappointed, and it’s a little bit different than being disappointed by people or circumstances. Sometimes we’re disappointed…
3. BECAUSE WE LET GOD DOWN
When I was in grade two I decided that I would like to discover what it would be like to staple my thumb. Now, I wasn’t a dumb kid – usually. I knew that it would hurt. I knew that stapling my thumb wasn’t the smartest thing that I could do at that moment. But I decided, despite the consequences, that I would staple my thumb. I don’t know which was worse: the pain of removing that staple, or the looks that the school nurse gave to me. But I chose a course of action and I experienced the results.
Sometimes we’re disappointed in life not because of others or because of circumstances, but as a result of our own actions. Somebody said, “Some of the most disappointed people in the world are those who get what is coming to them.”
We all make choices that we later regret, and we suffer the consequences of these decisions. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But there is a problem—your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My child, don’t ignore it when the LORD disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” Sometimes we experience discouragement as a result of God’s discipline in our lives, because we’ve let God down.
There’s one more reason why we experience discouragement:
4. BECAUSE WE DON’T UNDERSTAND GOD
I live with four creatures: a wife, two kids, and a dog. Out of the four living creatures I have at my house, only one truly understands me: my dog. Just kidding. The only one who truly understands me at my house is my wife. Why? Because she’s the only one at my level. She’s an adult. And because she’s at my level, we can understand and discuss what we are going through most of the time.
Many times, when we experience discouragement, the real problem is that we don’t understand God. Romans 11:33-34 tells us: “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor?” God’s purposes are far beyond our comprehension. Nobody is smart enough to offer advice to God. We’re not smart enough to even understand God’s decisions. As a result, we’re sometimes disappointed.
Sometime it’s not what we’re going through that’s intolerable. The thing that is intolerable is the lack of meaning. We’re not sure why we’re suffering like we’re suffering. If we only understood God, it wouldn’t be as painful.
I was talking to a friend the other day and he said, “I’ve never been disappointed with God.” He’s one of the lucky ones. He’s never reached that point of desperation. But many of us have found ourselves at one time or another shaking our fists at God. This message is for you.
I want to tell you that if you’re disappointed with God, you’re not alone. In fact, the Bible even tells us how we can even handle that disappointment. The Bible gives us three actions to take when we’re disappointed with God. The first step to take when you’re disappointed with God is this:
1. COMMUNICATE YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT TO GOD
Most relationships are based on a little bit of deception. Your spouse asks you, “How do I look in this outfit?” What do you say? If you know what’s good for you, you tell them what they want to hear. As a result, many of us approach God with the same attitude. We’re not 100% honest with him.
Why do we hold back? Maybe we’re worried about offending God. We’re afraid he’s going to be unhappy. But as we open our Bibles, we find that many of God’s great people were very honest with God about their disappointment with him.
Listen to what some people – some very good people – said to God:
Abraham asked God, “What good are your blessings?” (Genesis 15:2)
David said, “O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?” (Psalm 13:1) Another time, he asked, “Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed?” (Psalm 77:7-8)
Job said, “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1)
Habakkuk 1:2 said, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen!” (Habakkuk 1:2)
Over and over again in the Bible, people expressed their disappointment to God. How did God respond when people were disappointed with him? Did he zap them? Did he strike them dead with l ightning? Did he yell down and say, “You think it’s bad right now – just you wait”? Not at all. God is big enough to handle your disappointment with him.
In fact, I’ll tell you how God responded to those people who expressed their disappointment with him. He didn’t strike them dead. He didn’t condemn them for their honesty. What did he do? He provided for them. He sometimes explained what he was doing to them. He comforted them. God wants you to communicate honestly with him.
The first time I realized that I could be honest with God, my entire approach to him changed. I no longer had to fear God. I could approach him with complete honesty, holding nothing back. And what’s more, God wouldn’t turn me away when I was honest with him. Quite the opposite – he would draw closer to me.
In his book Finding God, Larry Crabb tells of the day that he was sitting in church on a Sunday morning, just as you are. An usher came up and tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “You’ve got an emergency phone call.” As Larry picked up the phone, he heard these words: “This is Dad. Your brother’s been in an accident. We don’t know how bad it is. Could you get down there?”
When Larry arrived at the airport, people were everywhere. Eventually he stopped a uniformed airline official and asked with happened. “Flight 585 has crashed just north of the airport. There are no survivors.”
Those of you who know what it’s like to lose someone know how Larry felt the next day. But nothing prepared for the day, two weeks later, in which at midnight he got out of bed, reached for the Bible, and went to his study. He began to flip through his Bible, but then slammed it down in frustration in a torrent of tears. He cried out to God and said, “I cannot endure what I know to be true. Everything is intolerable. Nothing is certain. I cannot go on.”
What was Larry Crabb doing? He was communicating his disappointment with God. God didn’t zap him. God didn’t turn away from him. Instead, Larry writes, he began a journey that led to him drawing closer to God – closer than he ever did before.
I don’t know what you’re going through in your life. But I can guarantee you that God is big enough to handle your disappointment. God is big enough to handle your questions. You can use your disappointment to move toward God, instead of away from him.
You may have been through a divorce. You may have lost a child. A friend may have betrayed you. You may have lost a job. Someone close to you might have an incurable disease. You have questions of God. This morning I would encourage you to come to God and ask him those questions. Communicate your disappointment to God.
Here are some steps you can take:
Begin to pray. Don’t worry about impressing God or following some formula. Just tell God what’s on your mind. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need…” God wants to hear what’s on your mind. He wants to hear from your heart – honestly and simply. Just begin to pray. Be as honest as you want.
Give your problem to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” God cares about what happens to you. He wants you to give your concerns to him.
Wait for God to speak to you. God never condemns us for asking him tough questions, as long as we’re ready to hear his answer. The prophet Habakkuk asked God some tough questions, but God never condemned him. Why? Because Habakkuk was ready to hear God when he answered.
God is ready to listen to you this morning. He is ready to hear about whatever concerns you. God can handle your honest questions. You can come to God with whatever you’re facing in your life, no matter how terrible. You can tell God how you feel. God will listen. God understands.
I would encourage you to begin a dialogue with God about whatever is going on in your life. That’s the first step to take when we’re disappointed in him. Communicate your disappointment to God.
The Bible gives us a second step to take when we’re disappointed with God:
2. CLAIM A PROMISE FROM GOD
Did you know that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible? God has made some incredible promises that you can claim when you’re disappointed in him. When you begin to go through a difficult time, you can claim God’s promises to sustain you no matter what you’re going through.
Joshua 23:14 says, “Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the LORD your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” God has an incredible track record of keeping his problems. Never in the history of this world has God ever broken a promise. When you are experiencing disappointment, you can claim a promise that will guide you through that difficult time.
Out of the 7,000 promises that God has given, I’d like to focus on three that can help us through a period of disappointment:
The first promise is this: GOD WILL BE WITH ME EVEN WHEN I’M DISTRESSED. None of us can predict the problems that we’re going to face in the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three hours, much less tomorrow or next week or next year. But regardless of what you go through in the future, you won’t go through it alone. This is a basic truth taught over and over in the Bible. There is never a time in your life when God is not with you. There are some times when you don’t sense His presence, but that’s your problem, not God’s. God doesn’t move. God never leaves you. He’s with you all the time. And God will be with you no matter what you go through in the future.
Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” This is a central truth that you need to grasp. You will never be without God in your life. He’s always there.
Here’s another promise: GOD WILL WATCH OVER ME EVEN WHEN I’M CONFUSED. Listen to Psalm 32:8: “The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.'” You’ve probably watched Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I heard about a wedding last week in which the groom was asked if he would take this woman to be his wife, and after he answered, the pastor said, “Is that your final answer?” Well, the groom didn’t know what to say, so he said, “Can I use a lifeline?” There are going to be times that you need help and you’re out of lifelines. You won’t have the answer, and nobody else will either. God will guide you in that time. He will watch over you when you’re confused – when you don’t have the answer.
One more promise from the seven thousand: GOD WILL GO BEFORE ME EVEN WHEN I’M AFRAID. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor forsake you.” You may be a worrier. You may be wondering whether God will provide your needs for the future. When God gave this promise, he was addressing people who were wandering the desert for forty years. They would need food and water in the middle of the dessert. God took care of them. They needed water – thousands of people had to have lots of water. Sometimes they could just walk up to a rock and God would have water gush out of a rock in the middle of the desert to take care of their needs. They needed shoes that wouldn’t wear out. For forty years God gave them shoes that didn’t wear out. He knew what they needed, because He went before them.
God does that in my life and your life. He goes ahead of me. Because he goes ahead of me, he knows my needs. Isaiah 65:4 says, “I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” We never have to worry. God goes before us when we’re afraid.
These are just a sample of t he 7,000 promises that God has given us. When we’re disappointed with God, we begin to forget about his promises. We forget that every promise of God has come true. Not a single one has failed. That’s the kind of God he is.
No matter what circumstance you’re going through, and no matter how disappointed you are in God, you can claim these promises for yourself today. That’s the second step to take when you’re disappointed with God. Communicate your disappointment to God, and claim a promise from God.
The last step we’re going to look at today is this:
3. COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO GOD
We’ve talked about what to do when you’re disappointed with God. Really, there’s only one thing to do. It’s not simplistic. It’s not a cure-all. But it’s the best decision any person could make. Commit your life to God. Enter into a relationship with him.
Why should I commit my life to God? Because the Bible says in Psalm 25:3: “No one who trusts in [God] will ever be disgraced.” No one. God is a God who never lets his people down. He is the only one I can point you to who will never truly disappoint you. You will be disappointed by your father, your mother, your husband, your wife, your sisters, your brothers, your children. Your pastor will disappoint you. Teachers will disappoint you. All kinds of people will disappoint you because they’re imperfect. But there’s one person who will never disappoint you – Jesus Christ. Because in the end, when we express our disappointment to God, we find that he’s never really let us down.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 34:10: “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will never lack any good thing.” David wrote in Psalm 37:25: “I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—not once have I seen an abandoned believer” (The Message). That’s the kind of God he is. He never lets us down.
That same God who seems so distant from you wants to establish a relationship with you today. The Bible says that our sins have separated us from God. Listen to Isaiah 59:2: “There is a problem—your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” If God seems distant from you, then there’s a reason. All the sins you’ve done – all the mistakes you’ve made, all the wrong actions – have created a barrier between you and God. But Jesus came to bridge that barrier. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “There is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.”
We talked about lifelines earlier. With Regis, there are only three lifelines. There’s 50-50. You can take your chances. You can wait until you die and find out if you’ve done enough good works to make it into heaven. But the problem is that the Bible tells us that nobody has done enough to earn their way to heaven. All have sinned and come short of God’s glory.
You can try the second lifeline. You can call a friend. You can get into whatever your friends think. If they’re not into God, then you won’t bother either. But, as we’ve said, your friends will let you down. They probably won’t lead you to heaven. Following your friends isn’t the best way to deal with your eternal life.
Then there’s “ask the audience.” You can follow what the majority of people are doing. You can follow the crowd. But Jesus told us that the crowd would let us down. The road to hell, he said, is a wide road. If you follow the crowd, you’ll be headed the wrong way.
These are the only lifelines that Regis offers us. But God offers us another lifeline. He offers us Jesus Christ. And no one who commits their life to him will ever be disappointed.
I don’t know why you came this morning. But I do know that you’re here for a purpose. You’re here to reach out to the only lifeline that can help you. You’re here to commit your life to Jesus Christ.
Psalm 34:18 tells us, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” If you’re disappointed with God this morning, here’s something you need to realize: God wants to draw close to you. He wants to rescue you. He wants to heal your spirit.
My question for you today is this: will you let Jesus Christ heal the hurt and resentment and bitterness that you’ve experienced? Will you receive the promise that no one who trusts in God will ever be disgraced?
Would you pray this prayer with me?
“Jesus Christ, I commit my life to you today. I’m reaching out for the only lifeline that is secure – the lifeline that you’ve provided by taking my sins away.”
“I come to you this morning and ask that you would make me a new person. Give me a fresh start. And I pray that as I follow you and make you first in my life, that you will give me the strength to face all that’s in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Still with your eyes closed, I’d like to read a passage of Scripture for you. It’s found in Romans 10. It goes like this:
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.”
If you’ve taken this step of believing in your heart, I congratulate you. As you receive eternal life, you can know that you are beginning to serve a God who will never disappoint you. He will never let you down. Amen.