You know better, or at least you think you do. Your head, your Christians friends, the things you recall from the Bible tell you that God is good and He is for you. But your prayers don't seem to accomplish anything. Couldn't God come through for you if He wanted? Your soul can get disheartened and your faith shaky when God disappoints you, or at least when it feels like He does.
Perhaps you've wrestled with being disappointed with God. You've prayed for healing, and you're still sick. You've asked God for restoration in your marriage, or for a spouse in the first place, and you're lonelier than ever. Your mind seems just as troubled, your bank account just as empty, your future just as nebulous and your relationships just as hopeless as before. Perhaps you were sure you heard God say something, and it hasn't happened.
Surely God could fix you if He wanted to. Isn't that what He promised?
Well, yes. And no.
It pleases God when His children are healthy, wealthy and wise. But if God is only a heavenly vending machine—put in a prayer, get out a blessing— the faith heroes in the last part of Hebrews 11 must have been doing something wrong. (See Heb. 11:35-40). Your financial statement or physical health is not a measure of your faith. In the same statement Jesus promised His followers two things: trouble and peace (John 16:33).
Let me help you put these things in perspective and navigate away from the disappointment that so easily creeps in. There are bigger things at stake, and it will help you to remember them.
Why I'm Not Disappointed
I've been there. As a teenager, I was sure I heard God say something specific, and it didn't happen—ever. Some time later, I went through a period of very severe distress, doing everything I could to get better—including praying all the time, with no apparent results, for years. Not that many years ago, I acted on what I believed was God's direction and landed in some big financial difficulties. Building this ministry in the last few years has been a lurching, twisting journey, and not because of lack of effort on my part.
Through each one of those parts of my story, I have grown. And I've noticed that each time my sense of disappointment becomes less. It's not that I expect less; the stakes actually become higher and higher with each new experience. The potential downside of "failure" becomes more dramatic. But as I've learned to trust Him more, my vulnerability to disappointment becomes less when things don't turn out as I wish.
Over time, God's messages to me have become less about me and more about His kingdom and the job He has given me to do in it. It's not all about me! And going through all this "stuff" with God has taught me so much about myself and about Him.
- Six months with absolutely no income and enormous financial debt taught me what it means to "take no thought" about material things. (Matt. 6:25-34).
- My four years of hell taught me to "take every thought captive" (2 Cor. 10:5) and to plead the blood of Jesus.
- Walking through the grief of my husband's death taught me that death will die and eternity will last forever.
- Building this ministry has taught me that it's God who builds the house, and it's most certainly not about me.
None of those experiences were or are pleasant. All involved major pain, major struggle, major risk of disappointment, major prayers that seemed to go unanswered. But I wouldn't trade any one of them for any amount of money.
God does not enjoy it when we hurt; He hurts with us. But our sorrows are only wasted if we hold on to them. Giving our sorrows to Jesus always results in transformation. This is not about God causing us pain to teach us a lesson. No, it's about His miraculous ability to take anything and turn it into meaning. (See Genesis 50:20)
Four Things to Know and Do
If you're wrestling with disappointment, pay attention to these things.
- Remember the War
We live in a war zone. We get wounded in the crossfire between the kingdom of God and Satan's kingdom of darkness. Sometimes our wounds are caused by others, sometimes by our own decisions and sometimes there's no reason we can point to. Many of our sorrows only make sense in the context of this great conflict.
When you face trouble, pause and seek God for His interpretation of the situation. One brief moment of seeing the context can change everything.
- Don't Waste Your Sorrows
Years ago, Paul Billheimer's little book Don't Waste Your Sorrows made a big impact on me. If you and I are to rule and reign with Christ for eternity, we need to go through some training. Remember, God does not enjoy your pain. But He can use your pain to train you.
Through God's miraculous, transforming grace, your sorrows can become priceless. Your physical, emotional, relational and spiritual muscles can gain strength. Give Him your sorrows, and He will use them. Learn all you can learn. Grow anywhere you can. Let God be in charge of your "education."
- Take the Long View
Especially in our 21st-century culture, we are used to instant gratification: a pill to fix everything, instant credit, fast food and hoped-for drive-through breakthroughs. But that kind of superficial spirituality is ultimately neither satisfying nor successful.
Yes, God has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes—in eternity (Rev. 21:4). We'll need them wiped away. We'll need the leaves of the tree of life, created for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). Hold on; you can make it! It will be worth everything.
- In the Meantime, Choose Trust
God can. God does. And even if He doesn't, trust Him anyway. That's the stance the three Hebrews took when faced with the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:17-18). That's what the battle is about in spiritual warfare. It's about who you and I will ultimately listen to, believe, trust, follow, love, honor and worship.
If that kind of faith seems too "out there," don't worry; none of the Bible heroes and none of God's friends then or now have come to that kind of faith without a struggle. Simply make the choice today to stay on God's side. And then make the choice again tomorrow.
And as your trust grows, your disappointment will lessen.
Your Turn: Have you been disappointed with God? How have you responded? How might you change your response so you don't waste your sorrows? Leave a comment below.
Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley is both a board-certified OB-GYN physician and an ordained doctor of ministry. As an author and speaker, she loves helping people discover the Fully Alive kind of life that Jesus came to bring us. Visit her website at drcarolministries.com.
This article originally appeared at drcarolministries.com.
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