A few days ago I was at a dinner with friends. A discussion started about how the Christian life is supposed to be so full and victorious. I have walked with the Lord all my life yet I have had some times of deep disappointment and times where I felt God didn't come through for me. Yes, I know God is always faithful and I believe that, but I have to admit that some of my experiences haven't matched up with the way things are "supposed" to be. I didn't join in the discussion. Afterward I felt a little worried about my heart. Have I become jaded?
- EJ from Little Rock, Arkansas
Expectations (Part 1)
Did you know that in China (as well as other places) the Christian experience is entirely different than it is here in America? The Chinese church is under deep persecution; believers are being jailed, tortured and killed every day for following Jesus Christ. But the Chinese are not disappointed in God; nor do they believe that they are not walking in fullness and victory.
Do you know why? It is because of EXPECTIONS. They expect to suffer and be persecuted. Here in America we expect things to be easy and comfortable and even if there is a struggle, at the last minute God will ride up on a white charger and rescue us. Which of these two attitudes is closer to the picture painted in scripture?
Jesus said; "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20) Then, when Jesus told Ananias to go and minister to the newly converted Saul he said; "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:16) Ah, the Lord was actually slating Saul/Paul for suffering. Then Paul says of his own Christian experience; "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) Yet Paul obviously didn't feel that he wasn't walking in blessing.
The American church in particular has gone through a pendulum swing over the last few decades that I think went too far. It is probably one of the decades in which you grew up and formed your expectations about how God is supposed to operate. Some legitimate teaching on faith got corrupted into a "name it and claim it" philosophy. The prosperity gospel; "I'm a King's Kid;" "If your miracle didn't come through, you didn't believe hard enough" - does this have a familiar ring?
Next: What about disappointment?
Battle Scars (Part 2)
You say you have been disappointed and there are times when things didn't turn out the way they were "supposed" to. You have some battle scars. I have some too. I used to be sad and even a little angry about that. Now I see it a different way and I hope you will too.
Paul looked at it like this; "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) Remember, Paul wrote those words after Jesus had already died and rose again. So even after the curse was broken at the cross of Calvary we still have suffering, disappointments, and persecution. The release from the curse is not yet fully manifest as it will be after the Second Coming of Christ.
Your disappointments are your "sufferings" -- or at least part of them. But that's not the end of the story. You don't have to just swallow hard or grin and bear it. Each time things didn't line up and you couldn't figure out why God allowed this or that, you had a choice. Inside, you had to make a decision: shall I go on with God, continuing to trust him even when he appears untrustworthy?
God is watching closely because he fully understands your dilemma and your expectations. But isn't he going to turn those very stumbling blocks into your greatest badge of pride? When we see from the light of eternity how things really turn out, won't we glory in those disappointments and sufferings? For right now it is mystery but it will not always be that way.
Don't be so hard on yourself right now. So far, you have always said "YES" to God. You are still serving him. And one more thing: you know the saying that it's not over till its over. Even on this earth in this lifetime you may see some of those disappointments turned around. I don't say all, but probably some.
Next: How can you keep your heart from becoming hard and jaded?
Are You Jaded? (Part 3)
If you were really jaded I don't think you would have felt that little prick of worry after the dinner discussion. You don't want to become hard and jaded. So you are part of the way there.
As far as your greatest defense to prevent cynicism from slipping in, I suggest continued full honesty. You are not doing so badly in that department either because you admitted in the question that you have felt that sometimes "God didn't come through for me". You know God is faithful but your experience has not always matched up. God can take our questions and he can take all of our honest emotions.
I once remember a lady that I was venting to because I was angry at God over the way something was turning out. She was aghast. She said with vehemence; "You can't be angry with God." I realized when she said it that her theology did not allow for anger with God so I withdrew my comments and just said; "Oh, you're right of course. I won't be angry with God."
Talk through with the Lord all your disappointments. Lay them at his feet and trust that he will make everything right in due time. And then walk forward with continued trust, hope and faith. The fact that you don't feel like doing so at various times will be greatly to your credit and the Lord will reward you for each and every time.
When you are talking to your friends, give a good report for all the marvelous ways God has worked in your life. I'm sure you have a great storehouse of those stories too. Be thankful. Be generous. Be kind and compassionate to others who are going through their own hard times. (By the way, it is certainly true that your own hard times can increase your heart of compassion for others and perhaps that is one of the things God is working in you.)
Thanks for submitting this question. A lot of people feel this way but are afraid to admit it. I pray you will continue to say "Yes" to the Lord at every juncture of your life.