Over the last couple months we’ve emphasized an important truth: what you think affects what you feel affects what you do. What you believe about reality – what you believe to be true – affects how you feel, and those feelings influence the way you act or react.
Last month, we made a very brief reference to getting our disappointment with God out into the open. We’re coming back to that this month and we need to say up front, this is difficult. If you’re looking for neat and tidy answers, I’m not going to be able to provide them here. Really, we’re just opening a conversation. To be honest, it’s a conversation we need to be having as Christians. Too many of us lock up these feelings – to say nothing of leaving the foundational thoughts unspoken.
We mentioned last month that some of us have experienced disappointment with God, but we pointed out that this probably isn’t really the foundational thought. The foundational thought is probably harder. It’s probably something like this: God let me down. That’s hard to say out loud, isn’t it?
Sometimes it shows up in a question: “Why did God do this to me? Why did God give me this hard thing? Why did God take this person away from me?” We’re going to interact with these ideas today and we’re going to do it under the statement God let me down.
And we need to say up front – and this is going to be hard to come to grips with; I know I struggle with it – but we need to be really careful that we don’t hold God to promises He didn’t make. I hear preachers sometimes making it sound like if you have enough faith or if you just speak the right words of faith, that you can unlock God’s blessings (health, success, happiness, and more), that God’s just waiting to open the flood gates of temporal blessings if you respond with enough faith (often code for enough of a donation to their ministry!).
But when I look at the texts they’re using to support their preaching, I realize they’re ripping verses out of context and making God say things He didn’t say. And when these things fall through, when God doesn’t “come through” for them, you have people devastated and disillusioned with God, throwing their hands up in despair.
So, we can’t hold God to promises He didn’t make because it’s a set-up job. People give and pray and worship thinking God’s going to “come through” for them and He doesn’t and they’re tempted to give up on God.
But, it’s not that easy. I wish it was, but it isn’t, because Scripture says things like this:
Sometimes people who honor their parents die young. Sometimes we ask with pure and righteous motives and we don’t receive. Sometimes we pray in faith and the sick die. And I don’t know what to say.
It would be a lot easier either to jump in with the “health and wealth” preachers or with the “Don’t make promises God didn’t make” preachers and be done with it, but I can’t help tying myself in (Gordian) knots because I know things aren’t that simple.
So here’s what I see. God makes promises – not all the ones health and wealth preachers claim – but God does make promises. And He calls us to believe Him. But He remains God. His ways are still higher than our ways. He governs this inconceivably complex universe in wisdom – just ask Job! He knows the stars by name. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from Him. He remains God.
So we have to hold these promises in tension with these realities. It’s not contradiction; it’s tension.
I think of Job. He offered sacrifices continually for his children. He thought, “It may be that that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” So, he offered sacrifices – the text says continually! – for his children. And God took them all! All of them! And Job asked, “Shall we receive good from the Lord and not evil?”
Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh – whatever it was – and God said, “No. My grace is sufficient for you.”
And do you know how Job and Paul responded? Job said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). And Paul, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Somehow Job and Paul were able to hold these things in tension. They were able to hear God’s promises and experience loss and hardship and still bless the Lord. How?
Well, here’s what I think we’re missing. It’s what I know I miss all the time. I want to put a period at the end of the sentence: God let me down. But that’s not right. It’s not biblically faithful because it’s not complete. The sentence doesn’t end like that. There’s a comma after “God let me down.” So it goes like this: God let me down, but God is not done.
You see, God is eternal. Sometimes we forget that. He is not limited to our lifetime. His actions for us are not limited to our lifetime.
So what’s your hurt? Say it out loud. I’ve been wronged. I’ve been cheated. I’ve been abused. I’ve lost my loved ones. On the one hand, we need to be careful we’re not holding God to promises He didn’t make. On the other, God has made promises. And from our limited perspective – and that’s the part we always need to remember – from our limited perspective, it can look like God has let us down, but God’s not done.
We talked about His steadfast love last month. God is a God of steadfast love, a steadfast love that we see clearly in the cross and empty tomb of Jesus, because God has an always-and-forever, never-giving-up, love-you-to-the-cross, into-the-grave-and-out kind of love. And that love isn’t done yet. That love is coming back and that love in Christ is going to resurrect the dead, renew the earth, reunite the redeemed, and fill us forever. God is not done yet.
Until we get there, though, we may walk wounded. In fact, we probably will. But I want to leave you with this today: We hobble in hope, because God’s not done yet. – Pastor Conner
Lord God, we are feeble and weary creatures. We see only to the horizon and think we see all. We live for 90 years and believe Your working must be completed and perfected within that span. But You, You see beyond the horizon; You are not limited to our lifetime. You are eternal. Help us never to forget that. And help us daily to find comfort in Your eternality because it means that Your steadfast love is eternal and Your steadfast love has gone with Christ onto the cross, into the grave, and out again for us. And Your steadfast love has promised to return for us and to renew all things. So, Lord, when the belief God has let me down seeps into our soul, keep us from placing a period at the end. Instead, help us in faith to place a comma so that we can finish the sentence in the confident and hopeful confession of Your eternal, steadfast love, but God is not done. And help us to rise each day with that confession in our hearts, in our minds, and on our lips. We are bold to pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
 During the first week in September 2020, I (Pastor Conner) addressed the question of mental health in our morning prayer sessions. This article (and its two companion pieces) are a lightly edited text from those sessions. You can view the video sessions on Zion’s Facebook page by searching for the teachings/prayers from September 1 – 3 or by going to Zion’s website (zionmanning.com) and clicking on “Worship/Study/Pray” and selecting “Morning Prayers.” During those sessions, I recommended William Backus’ book Telling Yourself the Truth. I continue to recommend it as an excellent source for learning to stop listening to yourself (specifically, the negative and destructive thoughts that try to take up residence in your mind) and to begin speaking the truth to yourself (specifically what God says about you).