Disappointed with God?
I’ve been there…
and David shows us how to launch our lives from weeping to wonder.
God designed us for wonder, the powerful emotion that arrests our attention over SomeOne great, extraordinary, beyond our ability to fully grasp.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (Psalm 119:18).
Disappointment with God, however, often swallows up our wonder and tip-toe expectation for what God has for us. In our Psalm 13, David expresses his deep disappointment in God because He failed to act when and how David expected. Psalm 13 openly records David’s raw emotions of disappointment so we can honestly embrace our pain and work through to launch breakthrough growth through praise…with no change in circumstances.
1. The Voice of LAMENT (Psalm 13:1-2)
For years the lament Psalms had no power in my life and brought only confusion. How ironic that I complained, “David, just stop whining!” I still remember when Psalm 13 and the power of lament first came alive for me and opened up wider vistas, expanding how I saw God and myself and expanding my range of emotions.
Repeated words provide clues to discover what David emphasizes. First, four times David bemoans what seems to him to be God’s failure to act with a fourfold: “How long, O LORD….” Second, seven first person pronouns show up, revealing David’s self-focused pity party.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? O LORD, how long will my enemy triumph over me? (13:1-2).
Do you remember such a time of personal disappointment in God?
Take a moment to pull up that memory. Even if it’s painful, bring it up because we want to discover ourselves in this Psalm. Perhaps the death of a loved one; or a child turning away from the Lord; or health problems, crop failures or business failures.
Certainly disappointments are part of life in our post-Genesis 3 world, yet how we respond either makes us bitter or better. Unchecked disappointment, especially towards God, chokes off wonder, like weeds choke a flourishing garden.
Lament Psalms are honest, vulnerable, raw feelings…and also self-focused. I call them the “poor-me” Psalms because they often reflect this self-focus prodded by internal or external pain. God invites us to bring to Him all these authentic, yet destructive, emotions of anger, bargaining or grief. It’s not enough to vent, and even more destructive to stuff. Lean into God with all of it.
Lament also expresses honest doubt about God. God seems to have failed us. Don’t bury these feelings, even if they are distorted by pain. They are your feelings so genuine, even if they don’t align with Reality. They give me permission to wobble in tough times of disorientation.
R.T. Kendall, a well-respected Christian, surmises that 90% of people do not break through when they feel betrayed by God, diminishing their intimacy with Him and blinded to our God-assignments. But please, take a poll in your life to be sure you personally have no false sense of betrayal.
This downward spiral begins with what we see as undue delay from God. If not immediately checked, this degenerates into disappointment with God as we “should” on God, which swallows up our wonder. “God should have….” This then spirals down to betrayal and anger aimed at God, which undermines our friendship and partnership because we no longer trust God.
“When we are offended by God, our offense does not shut down the hurt, but only shuts down our hope” (my pastor this morning).
This prolonged delay is our enemy’s favorite strategy in the midst of a turnaround to get our eyes back on ourselves. Perhaps you recently felt the first-fruits of a turnaround, in your personal walk or ministry, in your church or in your business. Now all you feel is this undue delay on God’s part and echo the psalmist: “How long, O LORD.”
You are reading this now because grace is near to break free from the enemy’s downward spiral.
Be fiercely honest with God and with yourself. Bring all these raw emotions into God’s presence, just as they are, raw, unfiltered, like David did four times. Let’s look at what David is saying in these four lament questions.
I’m forgotten! “How long will you forget me, forever?”
I’m abandoned! “How long will you hide your face from me?”
I’m in inner turmoil in my thoughts! “How long must I wrestle sorrowfully with my inner thoughts?”
I’m defeated! “How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
“How long, O LORD, will I be forgotten, abandoned, left alone to battle with my own despairing thoughts, and defeated by my enemies?”
As I carefully examine each of these four phrases in verses 1-2, none of them may actually align with God-Reality. Despair twists our perspective.
Could our God ever forget His favorite friend?
Is God really hiding His face from His beloved child?
Could our loving Father ever leave us alone?
Have our enemies triumphed over us in every way?
Brooding resentment. Dark despair. Nagging doubts about God’s care and timing, yet without shame.
Why can David be so free to be honest with God?
David knew the compassionate Friend he had in God. Leaning in hard to God with every ounce of his disappointment provides the pathway back to wonder.
May I ask, “Are you as free before God as David is to express your disappointment with God in what seems to be a prolonged delay?”
If not, what hinders us? Do we hear the enemy’s whispered deceit that extracts guilt and shame: “If I have such thoughts, I must be a bad person.” Jesus dealt a death blow to such guilt and shame on the cross.
And also let me also be clear. God has never done one thing where we are correct to be disappointed with Him. He is never late. He is good at His core so can only do good. Always.
Your powerful emotions may not always be accurate, but in lament they are authentic, both real and raw. A love relation only thrives in emotional honesty. And God is not fragile!
God is after warriors, and warriors in His Kingdom army are strengthened in battle.
2. The Voice of PETITION (Psalm 13:3-4)
David gives you the responses to break free from these chains.
Don’t settle in lament, drinking the bitter dregs at our private pity-party of false feelings of betrayal. We must choose to move beyond lament to petition. Forty five years ago, Jesus drew me to Himself. One of the first things they taught me is the importance of prayer. So isn’t prayer an obvious response? Yes and no!
When I spiral down in despair, spiritual dullness often clouds my thoughts. I forget I’m a child of the King with easy access to my Father. It seems that everything is falling apart, and my flesh-response is to suck my thumb in lament sitting alone in my pity-party.
It’s a deliberate choice to rush into God’s presence with our desires or we will take on a victim mentality. Or worse yet, cover it up. Sadly, I know friends who have lived in lament for decades over a painful event, and are blinded to a way out.
For me, this type prayer is not driven by strong desires to connect with God, but by necessity. Psalm 73 graphically describes this radical turning point.
“Until I came into God’s presence in the sanctuary; then I understood…” (73:17).
Our Father experiences great pleasure when His children climb up on His lap and pour out our hearts. It’s who He is. As I ask, He either answers or my verbalizing often brings me insight so I adjust. In either case, I just took this out of my dark thoughts into the light. At its essence, prayer of petition is like a child rushing into a good father’s presence and asking. It’s basic language, never requiring flowery words.
Petition is addressed to God, the only one who can help. Pleas. Entreaty. Asking. Prayer are other words for petition. Be direct. What is it that you specifically want now from your caring Father? Where are you dsappointed with God? What boldness in this God-seeker, David! “Look” “Answer” “Give light,” are all commands to our sovereign Lord.
“I need to know you are looking, Daddy!” “Feeling separation from your presence is more than I can bear.” God designed us in Genesis 1 with a deep down human need to be noticed since God designed us in His image of community. We want to be seen. When my young grandchildren swing in the park, they shout “Look, Poppo!” We long to be seen and noticed, even as adults, although we are not as obvious. As I was preparing, a wave of deep discouragement hit me. I prayed Psalm 13. When I prayed the word “look,” this deep-down, “oh Lord” of His presence flooded me,instantly shattering discouragement.
“I need guidance, Lord, because I’ve lost my way.”
“I’m confused, stumbling in the dark.” David asks for insight into this difficulty. Ephesians tells us the Spirit of wisdom and insight lives within us.
God insists that we ask Him, or the powerful pull of pain will pull us back to lament. “Or else…” I will slide back (3b-4). There is no coasting in the Christian life. If you think you are drifting, the pull of this world and our flesh is actually pulling us back. My spiritual state is more fragile when I’m beginning to refocus from myself to God.
Instead of insisting on his way, David has now opened his heart to God’s way, like our Master in the Garden.
“Abba Father,…not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
How come such bold, fervent, persistent asking from David?
God has slipped His wedding ring on our finger. God delights to give His bride and His beloved children good things (James 1:17). It’s who He is.
Come boldly into God’s throne-presence and ask.
3. The Voice of PRAISE (Psalm 13:5-6)
Yet this man after God’s own heart does not leave us choked off by disappointment with God leading to despair. He takes us firmly by the hand to return us to our heritage of awe and wonder and exuberant joy, without any external change.
Right here is where many of us stumble.
Why worship when nothing has changed in my circumstances?
Waiting for change would be walking by sight, not by faith. And if we don’t move out of lament to petition all the way through to praise without any immediate relief at hand, we will slide back to lament. David leans in close, face to face with the living God with the ringing enthusiasm of worship…and no circumstance has changed. Yet all has changed within David.
Thanksgiving. Exaltation. Worship. From pouting to praise! Disappointment with God launched us into more wonder, when we lean in. David climbed up from the depths of despair to the summit of praise as he leaned into the Lord.
David is emphatic. “But for my part.” These deliberate choices take effort and hard work. God plays a part, and we also play our part in flourishing spirituality. God is not against effort, only the deceit of earning. Look with me at these five responses of praise.
Trusting confidence; It’s not about the quality of our faith, but the object of our faith that brings the outcome;
Unfailing love. Psalm 32 tells us twice that God’s love always surrounds us;
Overflowing joy in his heart, the core of who we are, mind, affections and will;
Exuberant singing because his heart has been set free.
Because the Lord has been “good to me” This is the open secret to a vibrant spiritual life. Not a false Pollyanna view of life. Not a lie like: “Everything is OK.” Evil does exist in the world and we experience attack and God is alive and always moving towards us.
Yet out of the roughest trial, God will cause these to work together for our good, dealing bountifully with us since God is a generous God who lavishes us with His grace (Romans 8:28). We have a personal Friend, a Father, our King, our Groom who is at the control center of the universe so sing exuberantly.
This is not merely a theological statement of “good” like in Psalm 73:1. It’s the ringing declaration of one man, designed as a worshipper set free. David has come home, to our only true home, resting in the God who is for us…always.
Why the change in response?
We are called to walk by faith, not sight, so we lean into God in praise without anything changing. Yet all has changed because our focus ends up worshipping the living God. We are never more fully human than when we are praising God.
Turn disappointment with God into wonder!
If this Psalm has touched you in any way, why not begin reading through the Psalms regularly, one Psalm a month and it takes 90 days; 5 Psalms a day and only one month. I wrote Discover Yourself in the Psalms a companion to walk you through the Psalms, with very short pointed helps (or find it on my Books Page).