A Few Notes on
Disappointment With God
- by Phillip
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- If God is so concerned about us doing His will,
why does He not make it more clear? Think of a time when God did make His will
so clear, and think of the results. An Israelite for 40 yrs in the desert
during OT times, only had to look up at the cloud over the tabernacle to see if
he should move or not. There were very few, if any, atheists in those days!
Pretty clear what God's will was here ! What happened? Ten different times on
the plains of Sinai they rose up against God. Even at the border of the
Promised Land, they were still longing for the good old days of slavery in
Egypt. After entering the Promised Land, there were clearly spelled out rules,
613 laws that covered the complete range of behavior for Jews. Few people
complained about fuzzy guidance in those days! But, these very, very clear
words from God did not increase the likelihood of obedience !! The OT is full
of stories of the Jewish nation turning in disobedience away from God. The
issue was, why pursue God when He had already revealed Himself so clearly?
God's directness seemed to produce the very opposite of the desired effect!
Just as God found it nearly impossible to live among sinful people, the
Israelites found it nearly impossible to live with a holy God in their
- Remember the story of the friends who lowered
the paralytic through the roof in order to get him in front of Jesus? Jesus'
response to the paralytic was, your sins are forgiven. What was easier for
Jesus to do, say "your sins are forgiven?" or "take up your mat
and walk?" No physical deformity could withstand his healing touch. The
real battle was against the invisible, spiritual powers.
- What did Jesus pray about? Faith, the
forgiveness of sins, the power of the Evil one...Such an emphasis confused the
crowds, who primarily sought solutions to their problems in the physical world
- poverty, illness, political oppression. Has anything changed? Today,
ministries emphasize physical healing, prosperity but few direct their focus to
such persistent human problems such as pride, hypocrisy and legalism - the
problems that so troubled Jesus.
- God's goal is not to overpower skeptics with a
flashy miracle, He could do that in an instant if He wished. Rather He seeks to
love and to be loved. The Bible shows a clear progression in God's efforts to
break through to human beings without overwhelming them - - God the Father
hovered parentally over the Hebrews, God the Son who taught the will of God by
example, and finally to the Holy Spirit who fills us with the literal presence
of God. Since the HS, God has relied on us to cary out His will on
- The point of the Book of Job is not about
suffering: where is God when it hurts? The prologue (chapters 1-2) dealt with
that issue. The point is faith: Where is Job when it hurts? How is he
- The book of Job shows us that the most important
battle takes place inside of us. Will we trust God? Job teaches us that when
faith is hardest and least likely, then faith is most needed. His struggle
presents a glimpse of what the Bible elsewhere spells out in detail: that our
choices matter, not just to us and our destiny, but, amazingly, to God Himself
and the universe He rules.
- Jobs' friends searched for some hidden reason
behind the suffering: "God is tryng to teach you something. You should
feel privileged, not bitter, about your opportunity to lean on him in
faith." "Meditate on the blessings you still enjoy - at least your
alive. Are you a fair weather believer." You are undergoing a training
regimen, a chance to exercise your muscles of new faith. Don't worry - God will
not test you beyond what you can bear." "Don't complain - you will
forfeit this opportunity to demonstrate your faith to unbelievers."
"Someone is always worse off than you - count your
blessings"...........Job's friends offered a version of each of these
words of wisdom, and each contain an element of truth. However, they do nothing
to answer the questions of the person in pain. It was the wrong medicine,
dispensed at the wrong time.
- Is life fair? read the story of Jesus and ask
yourself, "was life fair to him?" The cross has demolished for all
time the basic assumption that life will be fair !
- No one is exempt from tragedy or disappointment
- - God himself was not exempt. Jesus offered no immunity, no way out of
unfairness - but rather a way through it to the other side. The cross of Christ
has overcome evil, but it did not overcome unfairness.
- When God speaks to Job, He doesnt explain, He
explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to
explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain
Einstein to a little neck clam....God doesnt reveal His grand design....He
reveals Himself. The message behind the splendor is "Until you know a
little about running the physical universe, Job, don't tell me how to run the
- The same questions torment almost every
suffering person: why? why me? what is God trying to tell me? In the book of
Job, God deflects the question of cause and focuses instead on our response of
faith.....We assume we would bear suffering better if we only knew the resons
behind it - - but would we? No intellectual answer will solve suffering.
Consider Lamemtations, where the author Jeremiah did know exactly why Jerusalem
was destroyed - the Hebrews had broken their covenant with God. Nevertheless,
knowing the casue did nothing to alleviate the suffering or the feelings of
despair and abondonment.
- Saints become saints by somehow hanging onto the
stubborn conviction that things are not as they appear, and that the unseen
world is as solid and trustworthy as the visible world around them. God
deserves trust, even when it looks like the world is caving in.
- In the author's study of the Bible, he was
struck by a radical shift in its authors attitudes about suffering, a shift
that traces directly back to the cross. When NT writers speak of hard times,
they express none of the indignation that characterized Job, the prophets and
many of the psalmists. They offer no real explanation for suffering, but keep
pointing to 2 events - the death and resurrection of Jesus.....The apostle's
faith, as they freely confessed, rested entirely on what happened on Easter
Sunday. Those disciples, who gazed at the cross from the shadows, soon learned
what they had failed to learn in 3 yrs with Jesus: When God seems absent, He
may be closest of all. The 3 day pattern - tragedy, darkness, triumph - became
for NT writers a template that can be applied to all our times of testing. We
can look back at Jesus, the proof of God's love, even though we may never get
an answer to our Why question. Good Friday demonstrates that God has not
abondoned us to our pain. The evils and sufferings that afflict our lives are
so real and so significant to God that he willed to share them and endure them
himself. Easter Sunday shows in the end, suffering will not triumph.
- "Where is God? This is one of the most
disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of
needing Him...you will be, or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to
Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you
find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on
the inside. After that, silence.......You may as well turn away. The longer you
wait, the more emphatic the silence becomes." CS Lewis (in the midst of
deep grief after his wife's death from cancer)
- One bold message in the book of Job is that you
can say anything to God. Throw at Him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your
bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment - He can absorb them all. As
often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with
God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.
God can deal with every human response save one. He cannot abide the response
of ignoring Him or treating Him as though He does not exist. That response
never once occurred to Job.
- Pain narrows vision. The most private of
sensations, it forces us to think of ourselves and little else.
- What are we to make of Daniel's angelic being
who needed reinforcements, not to mention the cosmic wager of Job? Simply this:
the big picture, with the whole universe as a backdrop, includes much activity
we never see. When we stubbornly cling to God in times of hardship, or when we
simply pray, more - much more - - may be involved than we ever dream. It
requires faith to believe that, and faith to trust that we are never abandoned,
no matter how distant God seems.
- Readers look at Job's restoration and say God
delivers his people from adversity. Readers, however, overlook one important
detail. Job spoke his contrite words before any of his losses had been
restored. He was still sitting in a pile of rubble, naked, covered with sores,
and it was in those circumstances that he learned
to praise God. Only one thing had changed - God had given Job a glimpse of the
- I say this with care, but I wonder if a fierce,
insistent desire for a miracle - - even a physical healing - sometimes betrays
a lack of faith rather than an abundance of it. When yearning for a miraculous
resolution to a problem, do we make our loyalty to God contingent on whether he
reveals himself yet again in the seen world?
- If we insist on visible proofs from God, we may
well prepare the way for a permanent state of disappointment. True faith does
not so much attempt to manipulate God to do our will as it does to position us
to do his will. As I searched through the Bible for models of great faith, I
was struck by how few saints experienced anything like Job's dramatic encounter
with God. The rest responded to the hiddenness not by demanding that he show
himself, but by going ahead and believing him though he stayed hidden.
- We human beings instinctively regard the seen
world as the "real" world and the unseen world as the
"unreal" world, but the Bible calls for almost the opposite.
- In any discussion of disappointment with God,
heaven is the last word, the most important word of all. Only heaven will solve
the problem of God's hiddenness. For the first time, human beings will be able
to look upon God face to face.
- The bible never belittles disappointment, but it
does add one key word: temporary - - What we feel now, we will not always feel.
Our disappointment is itself a sign, and aching, a hunger for something better.
And faith is , in the end, a kind of homesickness - - for a home we have never
visited but have never once stopped longing for.
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