How do we reconcile our disappointments with unanswered prayer when the Psalms distinctly says that God does not disappoint us? What about the things we beg God for that appear to line up with His will, such as no one should perish, and a loved one dies without ever reconciling with Christ? What do we do with the unexplainable hurts and pains of this world when we know that God breathed stars into existence, is able to calm storms with just a word, throw mountains into the sea, and set captives free? How do we forgive?
We will experience unexplainable hurts in this life, and we will wonder if God has left us. Our hearts will fail beneath the weight of our burdens. Grief will steal our breath. Our minds will be unable to fathom the abuse we have suffered.
During our lifetime we will wonder and question whether or not God loves us because we cannot see Him acting on our behalf in our circumstances. We judge God based on whether or not He’s acting the way we think a loving God should act.
We declare God guilty of not loving us the way we think we should be loved. Or we assume that we’ve done something wrong and so begins this vicious cycle of self-punishment and judging God. Instead of running to God we turn away from Him and hide in a corner. Or run in the opposite direction embracing a life that declares hatred for God. Or we become experts at religious conduct with our hearts growing harder each day.
Disappointments lead to disillusionment, which leads to cynicism and eventually bitterness and resentment. If we want to move forward in our relationship with God, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts for any indictments against God Himself. And when we do, we just might find we need to forgive God for not living up to our expectations.
I’ve given birth to four children and all my labors were difficult and are the stuff of nightmares. My “easiest” labor was about 12 hours long and still involved the NICU. With my third child, I truly believed things would be different. I had prayed. I had peace. I just knew that God was going to work a miracle.
The labor lasted far too long. The nursing staff dismissed my needs. The doctors traded shifts and the second doctor changed the previous doctor’s recommendations. I felt like I walked into labor and delivery with God on my side, but the longer it took, the more desperate I felt. And the more I believed that God had abandoned me. It took almost two years to admit that I was furious with God. I could have spit at Him and felt no shame. (that two year journey is a story for another time)
But in the process I learned a few things about God and my expectations.
First, there will be things that happen that I don’t understand, and in those moments I will need to turn to Him and trust Him, and yes, forgive Him.
Deuteronomy 29:29 states, “The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed to us belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
This tells me that there will be secrets that I will never know. I’ve chosen to create a “file” in my heart where I put my “why’s” and “what the heck’s” that haven’t been answered. If God chooses not to reveal something, it doesn’t negate the truths that He is still good, kind, and loving. What it does is reinforce the truths found in Isaiah that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are higher than mine. And when I lean into Him, knowing that he bears the weight on His shoulders, I find comfort.
Second, if I allow anger to take root, I will need to address my expectations of how my life should turn out in the light of surrendering to him.
Galatians 2:20 states, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Once we surrender our lives, we’re bound to Christ. And we live this life in the flesh by faith in Jesus. Faith means moving forward even when we can’t see. It means that we can declare in the darkness that God is light. And even when we feel abandoned by God, we declare by faith that He never leaves nor forsakes us.
What looks like forgiving God is really a surrender to His character, wisdom, love, and ways that are higher than ours. Go ahead. Let your disappointments go. Surrender to him and create a file that His secrets can be kept in. Wrestle through and then place it in His loving hands.
I don’t know why the birth of my son went haywire, but even though I thought God abandoned me, He hadn’t. I turned my back on Him when He didn’t give me what I wanted. But what I really wanted was revelation. And that He did. He revealed Himself, I just couldn’t see it at the time.
And isn’t seeing Him what we desire most?
Anger at God leads to disappointment which leads to bitterness which leads to needing to “forgive” God, aka: surrender.
Consider creating a “Secrets File.” A place in your heart where you keep all the things you wish you understood, but don’t and probably never will.
Let God keep things for you and trust him to reveal things in his time.