How to Reconcile God With Your Disappointments

Though we tend to relish the mountain-top experiences and rescue ourselves out of the valleys, the truth is that most of our lives are lived in the mundane.

You know, the day-to-day, nothing too special, just living out the day God has given.

In the day-to-day, though, I can tend to forget about its smaller details and instead choose to only remember those highs and lows of my life.

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When this is the case for me, it is easier to disengage from what God is trying to do in my life in helping me see Him for who He really is.

In my experience with other believers, God’s process of growth in our lives seems to generate a lot of questions for us. Even some confusion.

If  you recall one of my previous posts on the Learning Cycle, we have experiences that provide tensions or disappointments in our lives, which then causes us to examine ourselves and what is going on around us, and it is at this point that we start to generate questions.

Poor questions lead to poor conclusions.

Good questions lead to good conclusions.

How do I reconcile the day-to-day?

Within the day-to-day mundane-ness of our lives, it is challenging at times to reconcile what I see with what I believe about God. As with my picture that I have for this post, it is like we use a scale to measure our life. One side of the scale is our disappointments; on the other side is what we know about God.

And we try to balance or reconcile these things in our life so that we know how to move forward. We try to make sense of what is going on.

So just last week this happened to me. My wife and I had been talking for a couple of months about going out to Colorado for our grandson’s first birthday. It seemed like a good idea, we were able to schedule the time off, and flights were confirmed.

Plans were set. Agendas in line. Super excited to see our kiddos and that sweet little man.

And then the night before we were to leave, my wife started feeling bad, and she was overcome with the flu. My wife, who never gets sick, who has nursed many a sick child back to health and has come out unscathed, was now too sick to travel.

I was really wrestling if I should just cancel the trip altogether and stay home as well. But with my girls being home to assist her, my wife insisted I enjoy the birthday weekend.

Talk about disappointed. And granted, this was not a big deal in the grand narrative of my life, but like I said above, it was a disappointment in the everyday of living life. And the everyday is where the vast majority of my life is spent.

It was not that I felt bad for me. It was for my wife. And flying out of Milwaukee, I had three hours to lay my complaints out to God.

“She deserves to be at her grandson’s birthday.”

“Seriously God? The timing of this could not be worse.”

“I would rather I have the flu and her be able to go. Why is she the one sick?”

“Couldn’t this have happened next week?”

It was a beneficial three hours for me as it allowed me to stack my letdowns on one side of the scale and God and what I knew about Him on the other. And it was through this process of working things through in my mind that I came out where I needed to be.

And so I wanted to share some of these thoughts with you as they might be helpful in working to better conclusions as it relates to your view of God. Because, if we are honest with ourselves, our disappointment in a situation can transfer over to a disappointment in God and we feel let down…by Him.

And so we must work ourselves back to truth. But how?

As I was contemplating things on my drive to the airport, four thoughts came to mind that I want to try to flesh out for you.

All about God…and His glory

The Westminster Catechism has as its first question, “What is the chief end of man?” To which the response is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

If, as a believer in the gospel, I do not understand this question and its answer, there is a 100% chance that I will take the good gifts of God and twist them into something that makes much of me and drives me to worship myself.

It is easy for me to slip into life being about me and my agenda. And so I need frequent reminders that all of life is to serve to showcase His greatness, largeness, and worthiness.

In my initial response to my travel situation, it was very easy to drift into making much of me and my agenda. More on that later.

Is it ok to express disappointment?

Is God offended when I express my disappointments to Him? Is He out to discipline me when I express the fact that I just do not get it and that my current circumstance is dragging me down?

Does scripture have any examples for us? If you have ever digested the book of Psalms, you know the answer is “yes.”

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

There are multiple examples of the Psalmist pushing his disappointments to God. Who else am I to go to?

But if you notice the pattern set forth in the Psalms, there is always a reconciling with truth and not one’s own feelings.

Here’s what David said –

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16:2)

And Asaph –

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You I desire nothing on earth. (Psalm 73:25)

As I communed with God during my drive, God knew my disappointment, but He also knew where I needed to be mentally in what I took away from the situation and how He wanted me to view Him.

Expectations versus dreams, wishes, desires

It is part of God’s creative design that we have dreams, wishes, and desires in this life. Creativity is such a gift that points to the Intelligent Designer.

My drift begins to happen, though, when I cross over from wishes and desires to expectations.

What is an expectation? It is a belief, anticipation, or assumption that a wish is going to happen.

This occurs in marriage all the time. I have dreams, wishes, and desires that I carry into a marriage, and if not careful, they turn into assumptions. That because they are good they should happen.

The problem with expectations is that they foster all sorts of poor thinking. There are 100 ways not to meet an expectation and one that will. Expectations lead to disappointment. Expectations do not breed a thankful spirit.

It is just a “check it off, this was supposed to happen”mentality.

This strikes at the very attributes of God: that He is kind and that what He gives is always for our benefit (James 1:17).

And that is exactly what happened to me – my wife coming along for this birthday trip just seemed right. How could it not be? And in moving from a wish to an expectation, I felt like it needed to happen. That it was assumed.

Anytime I cross that line in my spirit, you can be guaranteed there is poor thinking to follow.

God’s glory dissipates like a fog and my agenda becomes the bulls eye. And we start to try to force circumstances to happen.

I read a sobering statement in an article by John Piper:

When I feel disappointed by God it’s because at that moment there’s something I’m longing for more than him, whether it be healing, employment, a child, a wife. As good as healing, employment, children, and marriage are, none of them will come close to satisfying me as much as God himself will.

So when I’m disappointed by God there’s a problem with my faith. I’m not trusting that God himself is who he says he is for me in Jesus. I’m not trusting him as my all-satisfying Treasure.

This was part of the reconciling process that I had to go through in my drive to the airport.

Aligning myself to God

When disappointment creeps in, I am at an important crossroad. There is a choice to be made, and quickly, because my flesh will always pull me to what I think I deserve.

I needed a recalibration, a realigning. Like a car that pulls left or right when your hand is taken off the wheel, I could feel my flesh pulling.

God is an anchor, a fixed point. He does not need to realign with me. must realign with Him, because my joy and His glory are not mutually exclusive events. They are closely tied together, and it is prayer’s design to move my heart from where it is to where it needs to be.

In looking to Jesus to be the satisfaction of all of my wants and needs, I receive joy and God receives glory. My aligning is not to convince God of me, but to convince me of God.

And that is what happened over the course of that three-hour trip. Truth won out.

I think we have to be careful in using phrases such as “Well God must have something better for me.” or “Maybe someday I will understand why this happened.”

True, God’s thoughts are infinitely above mine, but He has disclosed His purposes for us:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… (Romans 8:29)

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)

Everything that happens to us and in us is to help us look like Jesus and show His supremacy.

How are you reconciling your disappointments? It matters greatly.

I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.

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