The Darkness of Disappointment
- April 08, 2018
- Jared Odenbeck
Disappointment resides in the church. Dreams that shattered ages ago lie untouched in their graves, and bitterness, confusion, and hurt are the dirt covers them. I feel the weight on Sundays – congregations sing and lift hands in hope that God may grant them what they desire.
I know I missed out on childhood and adulthood dreams alike. Sometimes they manifested in anger towards myself or puzzling questions rose in my mind about who God is. I felt like I believed God (Romans 4), had faith, and trusted him. However, I failed to recognize what I sense much of the Church misses as well.
Sometimes we characterize his character according to what he gives us. We mark his faithfulness based upon whether or not he delivered what we desired, regardless of whether or not he promised it.
Yes, God may author dreams in our life. He may transform our desires. But God is not our dreams. Nor is he bound by them. He does as he pleases. We cannot control him. We cannot manipulate him into giving us what we want. Our good works will not earn it. Our worship will not breakthrough. Everything hinges on his desires and his action.
Even when we dream up noble, God-honoring, and Bible-exalting plans, he may have more. And yes, his will, not ours, be done. He saw fit to send Peter to his death on a cross (John 21) and to interrupt Paul’s hunting and slaying of Christians (Acts 9). God foils Elijah’s plan to deliver Israel out from under Ahab and Jezebel’s authority after the LORD reigns through him and triumphs over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-46). Even though the LORD revealed himself as the true God of Israel through Elijah, he delays the repentance of Israel, maintains Ahab and Jezebel’s kingdom for a number of years, and postpones the return of the nation to himself.
Why? I do not know. Elijah did not know either. He laid himself on the desert sand and asked God to take his life because he felt that he no longer knew him (1 Kings 19:4). I know that I lay myself on the metaphorical desert floor of hopelessness and discouragement all the time.
I do not belong there though. I see with natural, rather than spiritual, eyes. Oh, that the LORD would awaken me to all that he is, both in and for me, and show me his goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13)! I, like Elijah, often associate the disappointment of my failed plans and dreams with the faithfulness or goodness of God. I often fall into the belief that if I commit myself, even my life – as Elijah did, to something good and something that increases and builds the Kingdom of God for his glory, then surely God will deliver it, sealed with a guarantee. Even more, if I do that, surely he will bless me with the desires of my heart! Tragically, so many in the church believe these things. But he cannot be contained or controlled.
I want to see him rightly. I want to remember in moments of seeming confusion and letdown that “Our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3) and that what pleases him is faith (Hebrews 11:6), a trust that he works on our behalf (Romans 8:28), and the holiness and godliness that sprouts from his discipline (Hebrews 12:10). He owes us nothing. We owe him everything. And yet, he gives us “every good and every perfect gift” (James 1:17) in spite of our sin, in spite of our lack of faith, in spite of our disbelief, in spite of our grumbling and complaining under his will and his loving discipline. Know that the LORD does not leave us out to dry, but shelters us (Psalm 91:2). What you want may not always come, but what he wants has come, is coming, and will come. Let us take heart in all that we have in him as we press on through the darkness of disappointment.