Disappointment with God: We are in over our heads.

I have come to believe that there can be no mature spiritual life without experiencing disappointment with God.   When I was younger I would have cringed at the idea because so much of my faith hinged on my sincerity and certainty of my own convictions.   Today my faith requires no less sincerity, but it does ask me to move beyond my own convictions to a place where I can be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I can not see.

Experiencing disappointment does not mean God has failed us.  More likely it is that our expectations have been way too low and our imaginations way too small to even know what kind of things to hope for. If all of our early expectations of God were always fulfilled, then there is no where left to go and God remains as finite as our young imaginations.    That god is small and dies young.

Moving ahead in faith means we are going to have to actively discover more about God with our minds and hearts that we don’t yet know. It also means that we will have to grieve our flawed, tiny images of God to which we have clung even in tough times.  That doesn’t mean God isn’t there with us at those times or that God isn’t with us now.  It just means we still see the beautiful infinity of God through dark glasses. And even so, God has not quit us.

Disappointment, nevertheless, can be deadly.  Whether we experience a small let down, a moment of confusion, or a traumatic blow to our core, disappointment wants to halt us.  We fear that this journey is possibly only full of loss and grieving.

We want to take our marbles and go home, that is, if we knew where home was.  We try to build safe lives and remain there.  We tell ourselves everything is ok.  But as Meister Eckhart says, “God is at home, it is we that are in the far country.”

Christians can never fully say that we have arrived and everything is as it should be.  We cannot be comfortable with the claim that there is some balance of good and evil in the world.  There is no evil in God. In the infinite goodness of God there is always room for us to move.  We are allowed, even need to be, dissatisfied with how some things are.  Not all disappointment, but that kind of disappointment, is just hope trying to claw its way out.

That is when things get really scary because hope can move us.  We go looking, for example, for justice and to learn what justice is.  This can become faith and make us fight for justice and live compassionately.  The compassion we find in a life of faith can become love. That changes everything. We better hold on because of all of our expectations, only love remains.

Our disappointment is not because we have set our expectations too high.  Rather it is that we have desired too little and dreamt too small.   We went after the wrong things because we can not see the beauty of God’s infinity. But by grace, God has had patience with our striving and continues to draw us in.

Because of God’s beautiful infinity, whoever you are, wherever you are in the journey, the minute you say any kind of ‘yes’ to God you are clearly in over your head.   The good news is that  we have been desperately in need of something over our heads.


  • Melissa Lake

    It is rare that worry keeps me up at night, but the other night I started worrying and it just got worse and worse. I got up to sew and stew. There was a brief moment where I felt so angry at God for not bringing a solution to my worry. Umm, God…I’ve been praying!

    It was the same anger and helplessness I felt when my son was an infant with colic and I would beg God every evening as I rocked my screaming son to “HELP HIM!!!!!”

    It was the same anger I felt when we were moving from California to Arizona and our house wouldn’t sell. “HELP us sell our house, God….PLEASE!!!”

    The other night my anger only lasted a split second because I’ve come to realize that God has never let me down. I know my view of God is still way too small, but it’s growing.

  • Doug Harrison

    Recently my friend posted on FaceBook that his friend is dying of cancer. There were lots of well wishers, which is nice. All I could say is that I am cussing at God, because it is a kind of prayer too. It what I can do right now.

  • Angel Blanca (@BecomingAMW)

    Doug, I can relate wholeheartedly. That’s all I can say right now, but thank you for putting a very real perspective on a very real phenomenon.

  • Doug Harrison

    Thanks for your note. I write as little prayers for people I might not even know. I hope it gives you something you can use or save for later.