Is God Disappointed With You?
There is no doubt the “disappointed God” must be included in the Top Ten Misunderstandings of God. Here’s the heavenly picture this erroneous stereotype creates: the “disappointed God” sits, slumped forward on his heavenly throne, head in hands, peering down, sighing and frowning, disillusioned and frustrated with you and me. This misconception of God presents God as dismayed and despondent because of our seemingly never-ending failures. The “disappointed God” wonders whether you and I will ever learn.
Of course, dissatisfaction exists in our relationship with God, but the frustration is on our part, not that of God’s. The disenchantment we feel toward God comes from our perceptions of what we believe to be his failures. God disappoints us when he doesn’t do what we think he ought to do when we believe he should.
Disappointment with God is a deep emotional pit into which we can fall when we conclude that God is neither with us nor for us. But our failure to feel God’s presence is not proof that he is not near. We become frustrated with God if and when we think of him as a god who is the product of our projections, fantasies, wishes and needs. If we have such a god we will wind up blaming God. If we have such a god we will only see God as he heals and comforts us—we will only see him as being present in the bandages that heal our wounds. If we have a god who is the creation of our desires we will inevitably feel that he deserts us during affliction and adversity, disease and distress, sickness and sorrow.
Ironically, we often become upset when we think God is failing us and then we blame him for being upset with us! In person-to-person relationships the act of unconsciously redirecting ones feelings toward another individual is called “transference” theory. Transference theory posits that the transfer or redirection of feelings is a leading cause of cross-generational altercations. The recriminations can travel either direction—older folks can accuse the younger generation of shortcomings that actually are the responsibility of the older generation—and younger folks can shift blame toward the older generation in a vain attempt to escape their own accountability. Jesus advised that one should first remove the plank in their own eye before accusing others about the speck of sawdust in the eye of another (Matthew 7:3-4).
Our disappointments with God are actually disappointments with the inadequate understandings we have of and about God. Misconceptions of God provoke us to think we know what God will or even ought to do, and given our wrong-heading misunderstandings of God we are then disappointed. But our disappointments are not with God—they are with who and what we perceive and believe God to be.
Who we think God is and who God actually is are two entirely different matters. We may have inadequate perceptions of God, but for his part God never misjudges or misperceives us. God perfectly understands you and me, and he still loves us anyway! Therefore, any disappointment we have with God doesn’t mean he is unhappy with us.
God is not disappointed with us because he knows exactly who we are and how we operate. God is not disappointed with us because he created us. He would rather not see us wallow in the muck and mire of sin, but when we find ourselves in the gutter, God is not surprised. God may not like what we did last summer, but in spite of knowing all of the sordid details of last summer, and last year, and a decade or more ago, he still loves us.
Because God loves us he would obviously prefer that we not put ourselves through misery and pain. But, his love also means that he gives us the choice to make our own decisions. He doesn’t always miraculously remove the consequences of our decisions. While it pleases him when we completely yield our lives to Jesus, so that the life of Christ might be evident in our activities and practices, he is not shocked or disappointed when we fall “from grace.” He created us—he knows us, better than we know ourselves. He has realistic expectations about who we are and what we are capable of.
So God, having created us, is not disappointed with us. But more than that, God is never disappointed with us, not now or not ever, because of Jesus. God sees us in and through the lens of Jesus, and of course that’s exactly how we should see God—in and through Jesus.