I don’t exactly remember when I noticed it first. Maybe it was when I couldn’t go on an archeological dig in Israel during seminary because I was ill. Maybe it was when I could not pursue my THD because of finances. Maybe it was when my father, mother, or sister died. Maybe it was when I got divorced. Maybe it was something even smaller. I really don’t know, but there had to have been a moment when I first realized I was disappointed with God. I think we all have had that moment, even if we don’t want to admit it.
I am not referring to a crisis of faith or moments of weakness where we just don’t understand the maelstrom of garbage surrounding us. I am not referring to a calculated decision to reject the existence of God because we believe modern science or lore instead. I am referring to an actual mentally conferred moment where we come to a realization we do not like where God has put us. We look straight into the Almighty’s eyes and say, “This isn’t right”.
We spend a great deal of time avoiding that conversation. We look for ways to take the essence of scripture and battle the desire to call out God with sometimes-vain platitudes. “Just have faith” or “Give that up to God” or “Lay it at the foot of the cross” are thrown out casually as if they alone can act as a salve to fix what ails us. Don’t get me wrong; these axioms are valuable to give hope to a person needing direction. But they don’t address the problem of disappointment. That is an outcome of assessment, not a battle still being fought.
Disappointment with God is a real struggle in modern Christendom. In a lot of cases, it is the response to real trials that hit us and leave large scars. It is the reaction to beliefs that are biblically framed but not necessarily biblically founded. It is also the draw of many modern theologies that center on health and wealth. They feed on that angst and use it as fuel to draw people into the merry go round of focusing on getting what you want because God wants you to have it. If you don’t get what you want, you haven’t focused enough or invested enough to get it.
This so-called “Prosperity Gospel” is centered on a reference in John 10:10 where Christ says that he has come so that we have life abundantly. The Greek word used is περισσὸν(perisson) and although there are a few ways to say it in English, the reality is that Christ was telling the people around him that in Him, their lives would be abundant. I have to think though that what abundant meant to him and the people around him was very different than what is being preached by televangelists today. The real question is would a man who was counter cultural, focused on love and acceptance of the disenfranchised, centered on life full of communion with the Creator, for all intent and purpose homeless, sleeping on the ground with rocks for pillows, and being willing to reach out to the most despised people of that time and touch them, really be telling people that God wants to show them his love by giving them a Porsche if they believe enough? I doubt it. Christ attacked the Pharisees because they believed that and at no time ever did he used them as something to look up to.
My challenge isn’t so much with that theology. God has a powerful way of dealing with things preached that are contrary to him. He does not need my help. My challenge is the carnage that it causes and leaves in its wake when people try hard, don’t get what they want, become disappointed, and don’t even realize it. My challenge is with the reality of hopelessness that comes when we focus on something that isn’t real and then when we realize it isn’t real, we aim the blame at the one who is. We come to the cosmic crossroads with our disenchantment with the world that we have created and try to hold the Creator of the world that we tried to control responsible.
Circumstances are hard at times, even unfair from a human standpoint. No matter how hard I try, I cannot change that. Equity is not something promised by God. Yet I find it all to easy to expect it from him. My disappointment is a direct correlation to that. It is almost mathematical. My expectations plus His will equals my level of satisfaction. The result will always be the same. My expectations equal zero. He is God, for me to expect him to be anything other than that is the problem. If I remove my expectations from both sides of the equation, then I have His will equals my level of satisfaction. That equation always works but does require me to stop creating expectations and to understand that satisfaction is not something I can base on my desires. Desires are fine and if aligned with delighting in God will be part of His will but do not become part of His will because I want them.
I heard a wise man say once “With the onset of wisdom comes transformation”. I think there is more to that but I really like where he was going. If we cannot recognize the reality of the problem, we cannot change it. If we can recognize it we need to make the change happen. We will never truly know who God created us to be unless we stop trying to control His creative power and instead become who He wants us to be by serving Him and not ourselves. If I honestly look at my life, I have to wonder who I have really been disappointed in.