Do you ever feel like God is disappointed in you?
Many of us have. Maybe you do right now.
What is disappointment and where does it come from?
· Disappoint. vb (tr) “To fail to meet the expectations, hopes, desires, or standards of; let down.”
· Disappointed. adj “Saddened by the failure of an expectation.”
Disappointment is the sadness we feel when our expectations are not met.
For example, we work hard and expect a raise at work, but don’t get it. We’re disappointed.
Or like hopeful idiots, we expect politicians to live up to their promises after every election cycle. Again, we’re disappointed. (But seriously, are we really surprised?)
Or when congregations expect the pastor’s kids to be transcendent saints, holy and perfect in every way because they live in the rarified air of the perfect home of the perfect man and woman of God. Oh, the disappointment on so many levels!
Or when a new Star Wars movie comes out (particularly Episodes I-III), touted as the best in the series. Expectation swells! And oh, the waves of crushing disappointment!
Disappointment is unmet expectations.
So, do you ever feel like God is disappointed in you? After all, we know God expects us to live up to His standards, right?
He calls us to live up to His standards. He wants us to live up to His standards. It pleases Him when we live up to His standards. And any serious Christian will tell you how hard we try to live up to His standards.
But we fail again and again and again (and again and again and again…).
Especially when that despicable thought runs through our mind or the nasty words erupt from our lips or “the gesture” takes flight at the end of an argument or when that so-an-so moron driver cuts us off.
And then the condamnation pounds us. (Yes, you read that right. Word-play.) “I thought it again! I did it again! I said it again! Didn’t God’s word tell me, ‘Be holy as I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:15-16)? God has such high expectations of me and I disappointed Him yet again!”
After much reflection, I don’t think God is ever disappointed in us. Why?
Because God knows exactly what to expect from us.
Every. Single. Time.
Please be seated, class, for Theology 101. Among God’s astounding divine attributes of omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (everywhere present), eternality (He exists undiminished and everlastingly from the infinite past into the infinite future), and immutability (He never changes), He is omniscient. That means He knows everything, all there is to know.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing you can think, say or do that our Heavenly Father doesn’t already know about. Nothing you’ve done, nothing you’re doing, nothing you’re going to do. He knows exactly what to expect from you. Therefore, He’s never disappointed.
So where does this illusion of “expectation” come from?
It’s my expectation of what I should be, and what I should say, and how I should act as God’s kid. Therefore, I take God’s standard and place it as a bar over which I should leap, moment by moment, day after day.
It’s our idea of God’s expectations and disappointment which we place on ourselves.
Where did I learn this expectation/disappointment thing? Growing up.
As children, we’re born into a family where our idea of an omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, immutable, and omniscient God is initially impressed on us by our parents. No, they didn’t plan it that way. We’re just wired that way. We’re programmed to look up to things we see as greater than us. For a kid, the most immediate representation of God is Dad and Mom (made in His image, remember?).
As children, didn’t we think our dads could do anything (omnipotent)? Didn’t we just know our moms had eyes in the back of their heads and our parents knew, or found out about, everything we did (omniscient)? If they said nothing, we still assumed they knew but were saving it for a later date for parental judicial proceedings. Didn’t it seem like one of them was always around to catch us in the act (omnipresent)?
Then when we fell short of their standards, we knew we disappointed them and learned, oh so painfully, to be disappointed in ourselves for not living up to their standard.
Our Father’s job description for parents, like it or not, is for them to nurture and protect us as our minds and spirits develop to the point where we can make the transition from “parent as God” to knowing “God as God” personally. But we often have to unlearn the humanized version of God’s attributes and realize that those attributes are God’s alone.
One of my all-time best memories of my dad was when I was 16 and a newly-anointed car driver. Just three months after getting my license, I raced my own school bus on the way to school. I used a corner street as a shortcut, lost control of the car, and smashed into an oncoming car… right in front of my peers on the bus. What did my dad do? He took it in stride. He didn’t punish me or express disappointment in me. Maybe he knew me too well and expected such a bone-headed maneuver? He just said what I was about to go through financially and legally would be enough punishment and he would go through it with me.
That’s my dad. And that’s our Heavenly Dad. I began to see God in a new way. Transition working.
Our parents were often disappointed in us when they discovered our myriad of shortfalls. We failed their expectations. But God knows all our shortfalls, past to future, the beginning out to the end of our eternal existence. He knows exactly what to expect from us.
Unlearning the expectation/disappointment training is tough. So how do we do this?
Yes, let’s not abandon God’s standards in hopelessness. Embrace them! That’s what He wants from us.
But let’s understand we’re born falling short of God’s standards, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Get to know and truly understand that God has given us a way to cover all those shortfalls so we can stay right with Him “they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 4:24).
Please understand perfection is not achievable on this side of death and resurrection. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work hard toward it. Just don’t expect perfection. If you do, you will be disappointed in yourself, although our Father won’t be ‘cause He already knows!
Cultivate realistic expectations of yourself. “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Romans 12:3). Yes, let’s not think too highly of ourselves. That’s a sure invitation to disappointment! On the other hand, let’s not think too lowly of ourselves. Who needs that to drag us down? Trust what God truthfully says about you in His word. Don’t make stuff up or listen to the enemy’s “condamnation.”
Today, work on one thing. A fine sword isn’t created by dropping a hunk of raw steel into a forge and then pulling it out fully formed. It’s formed gradually, shaped under the trained and dedicated hand of the blacksmith. You, the hunk of steel, have been pulled from the fires of hell. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He forges your inner person into Jesus’ likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). The blacksmith isn’t disappointed in the sword as it's being shaped. It is exactly as it is at any moment during the process.
When you fall short of God’s standards, run! Run to the Father Who is never disappointed in His child because He already knows what to expect from us! The only disappointment in play is the unmet expectation of ourselves. And our disappointment leads to shame and that shame keeps us under the enemy’s “condemnation” or our own “self-condamnation.”
If you’re disappointed in yourself, “Damn the condamnation! Full speed ahead!” Run to the Never-Disappointed-In-You-Father for a fresh start.
Is God disappointed in you? Never. He knows just what to expect from you.
And He loves you just the same!
For further study of God’s attributes, try this excellent resource, The Blue Letter Bible online.