DayBreaks for 2/03/14 – An Equal Opportunity Disappointer – Disappointment #4
Proverbs 23:17-18 (NLT) Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the LORD. 18 You will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed.
Christians are not immune from disappointment. The gospels are full of people who were disappointed with Jesus – both good and bad people. John the Baptist (whom was the greatest of those born to women according to Jesus himself) was disappointed. He couldn’t see the signs that he expected to see from the Messiah, so while he languished in prison, he sent messengers to try to clarify about this Jesus. John was not a milquetoast. He lived in the desert, at locusts and honey, dressed in camel hair, was homeless apparently. He was not the kind to have his spirit broken by a prison cell. He knew the fate that befell most of the prophets. I doubt he was surprised at his incarceration at all. But his spirit was broken. Where was the evidence of this Messiah who was his earthly cousin? It didn’t seem very Messianic at all.
In Matthew 3:1-2, John told people what to expect of Jesus: he would gather the grain and burn he chaff with unquenchable fire. But what was Jesus doing? Wandering the hillsides of Galilee, healing people, preaching good news. John had done his job of preparing the kindling for Jesus by preaching repentance, but Jesus didn’t seem interested.
It is one thing when we are disappointed by our tax return (or lack thereof), or when we have to settle for stir-fry for dinner instead of a thick, juicy steak. Or when the weather was supposed to be nice but takes a sudden, unexpected shift for the worse. We know life is disappointing and that we will be disappointed often.
But we expect better treatment at the hand of God, don’t we? Theology tells us that God never changes – that he is always reliable. But even good theology can lead us to bad practices if we are not careful. That’s part of our problem, as John Koessler (The Surprising Grace of Disappointment) points out: we “confuse reliability with predictability…because we think God’s mind and ours are the same, we set goals for God.”
Cases in point: we pray for a healing but the person dies. The promotion we prayed and work towards for years is given to someone else. The person we have fallen for head over heels doesn’t even notice we exist, or if they do, they don’t love us in return.
Koessler continues: “Our difficulty is not that we have set the bar so high that we must now come to terms with God’s inability to come through for us. The problem is just the opposite. We know what God can do. We believe that He can live up to our high expectations…We are not troubled because we have misread the signals. What really bothers us is that we have misread the sender. We are deeply disturbed, not merely because God has failed to do what we wanted Him to do. Not even that He failed to do what we expected Him to do. We are haunted by the fact that God hasn’t done what we know in our hearts that He should have done.”
So, what’s the point? Koessler argues that we are disappointed so often with Jesus and God because we are too worldly minded. Our disappointment springs from the fact that we are primarily interested in a comfortable, easy earthly life and we are troubled by earthly sorrows. If we are to overcome earthly disappointments, we must do so by remembering that there are worse sorrows ahead (hell) and also better joys (heaven) that cannot even be described using earthly terms. When Jesus was asked why a man was sick – was it his sin or his parent’s sin? – Jesus said it was neither, but it was done so God could be glorified. I doubt that was much consolation to the man or his parents, but it was true if we can believe Jesus.
In summary, we, like John, are disappointed with Jesus because we can’t see what He is really doing. “…we have been laboring under a major misapprehension. Jesus came for us, but that does not mean he came to please us. Jesus came for us, but He does not answer to us. Jesus came for us, but He will not subject Himself to our agenda, no matter how good that agenda might be.”
When face with great disappointment, we want explanations. We think they’ll make us feel better. Maybe they wouldn’t…maybe they’d make us feel even worse. What does Jesus give us when we want an explanation? The same thing Job found when he demanded to have a reason: God just gave Job Himself…and Jesus offers us Himself, period.
The truth? Jesus disappoints everybody. Everybody, that is, except for One. And that is the only One that matters, the One who holds sway over all creation, all events, and who will one day see to it that all things are made right according to His will and purpose. We may be disappointed now by how we see Him managing the universe, but we won’t be disappointed once we curtain has been lifted!
PRAYER: Lord, disappointment haunts us in our sleep and in our waking hours. I am grateful that you, in your incarnation, knew and understood disappointment, too. Strengthen our faith in Your will being perfect for us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2014 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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