“When we lose sight of God we become hard and dogmatic. We hurl our own petitions at God’s throne and dictate to Him as to what we wish Him to do. We do not worship God, nor do we seek to form the mind of Christ. If we are hard towards God, we will become hard towards other people.”
— Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Disappointments in life come because we had expectations. Not dreams. Expectations. When we have a picture of love in our heads it can become our definition of love. We may not all say it out loud to parents, or potential partners, or even friends, but we all think, “If you love me you will ____________.” It’s a test that we ourselves mark. And sooner or later we are disappointed. Sometimes profoundly so. Either the false expectation goes, or the relationship slips into the slow death of lost hope.
Sometimes we think we are praying when we are actually putting God to a test. We are saying, in essence, “If you love me you will ___________,” or “If you are really God you will ___________.” When we put someone to a test we have decided in advance what the right answer is. We are putting ourselves in a position of judge over someone when our expectations must be met for them to pass the test. We make ourselves superior.
God doesn’t play that game. You may have noticed.
We have expectations that if he loves us he will give us a good marriage, robust health, intelligent grateful children, a rewarding career, financial security, a life of peace with reasonable neighbours, and a good reputation that reflects our glory. When God doesn’t meet these expectations of our own design it is easy to allow disappointment to harden into resolution. Instead of finding out who he really is we create another false god, one who is uncaring, or capricious, or inaccessible or hard and dogmatic – at least this god doesn’t disappoint us. Instead of searching for God’s true nature we build our own constructs and dogmas, then we preach that god with our actions and attitudes. We can become hard, graceless, or apathetic.
I think disappointment and loss of hope is the greatest pain known to mankind. We can forge through almost anything but hopelessness. Without hope, what’s the point? It takes the courage of hope to take the risk of pursuing God through the pain of disappointment, to humbly admit that we do not hold the answers, to seek the mind of Christ. Sometimes the ultimate form of worship is simply to make an offering of our pain and say, “You are God and I am not.”
When Moses (who up until that point had settled into the disappointment of his life’s circumstances) asked God to show himself, the aspect God chose to show was his goodness, which was so overwhelming Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of the rock. God’s goodness doesn’t always fit our definition. It is something else, because God is Something Else – holy other, entirely unique, and worthy of seeking out. We don’t come to him so that he can reflect our glory, but so that we can reflect his.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.