I hear that phrase a lot. ‘Disappointment with God.’ There’s even a book with the same title (a very good book, actually.) People often ask me if I am disappointed with God, and if I say I am not, say that I should be. And if I say that yes, today actually I am, I may get the ‘oh don’t worry, he has plans to prosper and not to harm’ etc. I know. I’ve used it myself.
But thinking about it, I am just not sure disappointment with God is a construct that is helpful. Why am I disappointed with God? First and foremost, it’s because I’m not healed. That’s the big one – the one everyone expects me to be disappointed about and validates me feeling this way (it’s OK – only natural – keep feeling that way.) But I am not sure I want to keep feeling that way, because I am not sure that I am, actually, disappointed with God.
I get disappointed I am not healed, but then when I spend any amount of time in God’s presence that disappointment seems to fade and become less all consuming, and my thoughts turn away from me, and turn to contentment instead of dissatisfaction. I could spend the rest of my life deciding to live in disappointment and developing an increasingly bitter exterior. I could also spend the rest of my life trying to be healed at every possible opportunity, but you know what? That’s so exhausting, dispiriting and can actually get in the way of a good relationship with God and with others – I become drained by the fact it’s not happening, my disappointment begins to eat away at my love for God and I become disappointed by others too when they may try to make it about my problem or my faith or lack thereof.
Being disappointed with someone implies that we think that they have not done something in the way in which we think they should have done it, or that they have let us down in some way. To be disappointed with God, then, means that we are deciding that God should have done something another way. We are putting that box around God again, that narrowing of God whereby we forget that whole thing about God’s thoughts being above ours, and all that. Are we narrowing God by being constantly disappointed?
Many writers in scripture show disappointment with God, especially in the Psalms. This fact is often cited as an excuse to be Disappointed. But we need to remember that the disappointment shown by the psalmist is usually accompanied by expectation and finally with praise. (‘Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.) The Psalmist has recognised that the great weight of disappointment can be balanced by the great expectation of God’s work in his life.
I’m deciding to balance my own disappointment with great expectation. This doesn’t mean that I am banned from the odd rant session at God Psalmist Stylee, but that I decide that my days will not be dictated by a sickening sense of being let down. Again. Instead I choose to look at God, to spend my time gazing upon God, and find that any sense of being let down is so very overwhelmed by feeling utterly loved instead. It’s a much happier feeling.
This also doesn’t mean that I am saying that I Give Up. I do not give up, but I do reserve the right to not Go Down To The Front every time I go to something where people are asked to Go Down To The Front. Sometimes I quite like sitting in my seat, soaking in worship, and find my healing far deeper in that than in going and endeavouring to explain, sometimes over loud music, what I would like prayer for, and then coming away again feeling a little lessened by the experience, often depending on the focus of the pray-er. I had a lovely experience last year at New Wine, where I did feel I needed to obey that nudge and get down there. After explaining, the lady didn’t pray for miraculous healing or tell my pain to leave or anything like that. She prayed simply that God would come to me in my pain and do what God wanted to do. How freeing for me that was – I didn’t feel obligated to feel better, like so often in these situations – I felt free to be whatever God was doing with me there and then, which was pretty fabulous actually.
I think God is so much bigger than we make out and can do so much more than we can comprehend. And that our perceptions of what God should do are not always what God chooses to do. But we can have great expectations of what God will do, whether that involves physical healing or not. I know one day I will be whole, and for now I am choosing not to be disappointed but to embrace all God has for me in the body I have today. I’ll keep asking for prayer, I’ll sometimes sit and be. I pray for you too today:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.