Is God disappointing? Does God disappoint people? Many (most?) would answer those questions, “yes.” In fact, many (Christian) books have been written on the topic, either affirming that supposition directly, or seeming to suggest it is acceptable to express disappointment with and be disappointed in God. In his book Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey quotes a letter from a woman whose 23-year-old daughter died a painful death from cystic fibrosis:
I tell you, Philip, it does not help to talk of the good that results from pain. Nor does it help to talk of God almost always letting the physical process of disease run its course. Because if He ever intervenes, then at every point of human suffering He makes a decision to intervene or not, and in Peggie’s case His choice was to let C.F. rip. There are moments when my only responses are grief and anger as violent as any I have ever known. Nor does expressing it dissipate it.
Peggie never complained against God. It was no pious restraint: I don’t think it ever occurred to her to complain. And none of us who lived through her death with her complained at the time either. We were upheld. God’s love was so real, one could not doubt it or rail against its ways.
If I’ve been telling you all this in an effort to come to some kind of resolution to the, problem of Peggie’s and my pain, perhaps I’ve been brought once again to the only thing that helps me experience God’s love: His stroking, His “I’m here, Meg.” But, again I wonder, how could He be in a situation like that and sit on His hands?
The final question the letter-writer asks, “How could God sit on His hands,” asserts disappointment with God. “It wasn’t right; He wasn’t fair. It should have been different.” This woman is not alone in her complaint against God. Many others at many times have expressed disappointment with God. In fact, most complaining, anger, depression, and resentment, even when not directly expressed against God, are expressions of disappointment with God — “life/this circumstance did not turn out the way I wanted and God failed me…”
So again the question, “does God disappoint?” is relevant.
Paul answers the question clearly and directly in Romans 10 when he quotes from Isaiah — “For the Scripture says, ‘whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” In fact, just a few verses earlier, he quoted the same passage and said the same thing (9:33). God does not disappoint.
But how can Paul say that when we often experience this emotion of disappointment?
Paul is not saying that we never will experience a subjective feeling that God has been a disappointment to us. He is not saying that we will never be subject to the emotions related to disappointment — fear, anger, resentment, depression, and overwhelming sorrow, to name a few. Rather, he is saying that the objective reality is that God does not disappoint. There is a truth about the provision of God and His work in our lives, and that truth is that God’s provision for the believer will never disappoint the believer.
In the context, Paul is speaking about salvation — it was through the rejection of God by the Israelites that the Gentiles were offered salvation (Is. 28; Rom. 9:30-33), and that salvation was not disappointing to the Gentiles! And it is by confession and belief that an individual is saved by Christ — both Jew and Gentile — and that salvation is not disappointing (10:8-12)! God has provided salvation from His wrath, redemption from sin, power over sin, ability to do righteous deeds and please God, the gift and fruit of the Spirit of God, and a confident hope of eternity in His presence. These are not disappointing.
So how are we to think about those times that we feel disappointment?
We are to remember that what we are experiencing is a subjective interpretation of our experience and that God has made an objective provision that is incapable of being disappointing. So we must learn to look at the circumstances through the lens of God (which is exactly what Paul does in Rom. 8:31-39, 2 Cor. 4:7-18, and Phil. 3:7-14, 4:4-13, to name a few passages). We must learn to value the gift of our salvation and its multiple provisions for us as being exceedingly more valuable than the small losses we have incurred on earth (and every loss we have is a small loss in comparison to the eternal gifts of God). And we must learn to trust that when God gives us something or allows anything in our lives, it is always better for us than anything that we might desire for ourselves. Our yearnings are skewed by our flesh; God’s desires for us are always sanctified by His infinitely perfect holiness and wisdom.
Trust the Lord. He will not disappoint. He and His salvation cannot disappoint.