When God Disappoints

“I don’t want you to ‘weave’ me.”

Her words stung. My three year old daughter told me the best way she knows how that it disappoints her when I’m not present when she wakes. Unfortunately the logic about how I have to work to pay for our life doesn’t hold weight with her. It’s certainly not enough to knock the lingering guilt I carry. She doesn’t see the big picture. She just knows what she wants: me to be present throughout her day. Necessity could be debated in this scenario, but I know other times will come where I won’t be able to prevent my kids from being disappointed with me.

I have a friend who’s a single mom, and as much as she would love to, chronic and severe back pain preclude her from playing soccer with her son. He continues to ask, because he doesn’t understand. And he’s disappointed. Another friend is working through the hurt and disappointment of her toddler following his dad’s recent deployment. None of them chose those circumstances, but they have to walk through them. And the children were or are disappointed. Understanding the why behind the circumstance might or might not change that. That’s hard to say.

Scripture gives a plethora of examples where people were disappointed with God as “Abba Father” and “Jehovah Jireh” – the God Who Provides. The Lent devotional from She Reads Truth has us reading through Exodus about the Israelites being freed pretty dramatically from the slavery of the Egyptians. They end up in the wilderness walking around like some crazies, and guess how they felt toward God soon after their release? I think you know where I’m headed: DISAPPOINTED. Can’t you hear them?

“All we have to eat are these flakes of manna? And some dead quails? Seriously?”

“Why do I have to get twice as much the day before the Sabbath? Couldn’t God make it appear in the same portion on that day too? It’s so hard to remember!”

“When do we get to settle down? When will we have a ‘home’?”

“There are PEOPLE in the Promised Land already? I thought it was set apart for US?!”

“Is there a water supply somewhere? Are we going to die out here?”

“I thought He was sovereign and that we were CHOSEN?  I’m starting to think it was for a reality TV show…”

Okay, so maybe not the last one…

You know the point they reach: They go so far as to dream of Egypt. They actually start pining for their former slavery rather than the uncertain future, despite His promises. Because even that bondage seemed safer than new faith.

I know I’ve been there. I thought my piety had earned me a compliant answer from God to the prayer “Don’t let anyone pursue me unless they are THE ONE”. It makes me laugh now. How naive. Like God owed me fitting into my equation because I had some boxes checked. We can all seem pretty holy before marriage and kids, am I right? (I’m only applying the absurdity of my assumption to my OWN situation. No shade for my faithful single folks out there. I have no doubt you’re more mature than I ever was, probably still am. Keep running! Heb. 12:1-2) But back to my story, I was pursued intensely. And I fell hard. And he did too. And we talked marriage after 2.5 months because, absurdity. Then reality started to become apparent. By month five, my life trajectory was effectively shattered. It might have gone better had I not centered my heart around this idol of love and marriage, but I couldn’t see that then. I only saw that God had played a cruel joke on me. He led me into this, knowing this was the outcome. How could I reconcile his Sovereignty with a compassionate love if this is what His provision led me to? So like the Israelites, my faith was shaken. I was mad at God for a long time. I blamed Him ultimately for my hurt. Again, like the Israelites.

But the bigger picture. It wasn’t fast. I’m not without scars, but they tell a story about God. I would never write my life differently. God has been so faithful to me, not always on my timeline, but always better. He was faithful to the Israelites as well. He has even offered us formulas to achieve the desired outcomes (because I love the if-then dependency of scientific thought):

Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understandings. In all of your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Matthew 6:33: Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

It’s never easy to have hope when our expectations aren’t met. Disappointment takes a toll. We naturally try to protect ourselves against it reoccurring. I don’t know if all our children will see and understand in the long run or not. I do believe God is bigger and loves them over and above these circumstances.

I see over and over in Scripture that God let disappointment happen to reveal something about Himself and His goodness over and over again: Job, Jonah, Paul’s thorn, the whole story arc of the Israelites. He wants us to understand and apply the truth about His character to our lives.

I will likely disappoint my daughter many times in the course of her life, and it won’t always be redeemed by a logical or higher rationale behind it. But our God is a safe bet. He is a good, good Father. He is big enough to hold us even in the throes of our deepest doubt of His love and provision for us. Hallelujah. Amen and amen.