How To Handle Disappointment with God

how to handle disappointment with God

Disappointment in life can actually make you question God’s goodness. I have some words of encouragement and advice on how to handle disappointment with God.

Navigating Crisis

As I write this, I am in the midst of disappointment. Not only are we currently losing, but we didn’t get the job we desperately wanted. We wanted it so bad we could taste it and it seemed like the perfect fit. We prayed so much about it too. So at times of deep disappointment it’s natural for us to ask, “God, what are you doing?”

Our Response to Disappointment

Disappointment is always easy to explain away when it isn’t you. We’re quick to tell a friend that everything will work out. We use phrases like “it’s in God’s time” or “it just wasn’t in God’s plan.” It all sounds good when it isn’t us. But how do we handle disappointment with God when we don’t get our way?

Typically, with a knee jerk reaction. We may think God didn’t hear our prayers. Similarly, we may feel that our prayers don’t matter to God. We want to know why God didn’t give us what we asked for. The truth is sometimes we may never know, but more often than not, I’ve looked back at my life and have been grateful for many prayers that God didn’t answer my way. One thing I do know is that God always answers prayers. It just might not be the response we’re looking for. First, let’s take a look at God’s responses when the answer isn’t yes.

God’s Responses

No

  • Your request is sinful or may lead you into sin
  • It may not be good for you – regardless of it’s appearance

Wait

  • It may not be the right time
  • God is still moving the “chess pieces” and not yet finished with your story
  • He needs you to learn, grow, or do something first

I have something better

  • There is something better He wants to give you

I often equivocate God’s timing to a chess game. There are many moving pieces. There are obstacles. Each strategic move brings you closer to your goal. Sometimes it takes several moves to get into an advantageous position. When you don’t see your prayer being answered, you may wonder if God is moving at all. Throughout my life, I’ve learned that while I was waiting, God was busy moving all the pieces of my life for the best possible outcome to my prayer. When I didn’t see God moving – He was actually moving the most…behind the scenes.

How to Handle Disappointment with God

Stay Humble

Disappointment comes from an expectation not being met. Read that again. An expectation. Could it be we feel entitled?

The Story of Job

Let’s take a look at the book of Job. The devil requests to tempt Job and God sets the parameters. The first tragedies don’t cause Job to curse the Lord. Therefore, Satan tells God it’s only because he was not allowed to hurt Job directly. So again, God redraws the parameters saying Satan can hurt him, but can’t take his life. Consequently, he is tortured by sores and boils. Job wants answers. Chapter after chapter Job complains, grumbles, and accuses – demanding answers from the Lord. By chapter 38, God has had enough. THEN THE LORD SPOKE TO JOB OUT OF A STORM.”

God is angry and He has a question or two for Job.

“Where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (Job 38: 4-5) God is making a point. You know nothing. I know everything. God continues for two chapters announcing His glory, then waits for Job’s reply. Job is speechless. “I am unworthy. How can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40: 4)

Job has no answers. He’s been humbled and the best thing He can do in a moment like that is to put his hand over his mouth and shut up!

I’m not insisting we don’t grieve. Grieving is important to process loss. However, take a lesson instead from the Psalms. It’s okay to tell God your confused, disappointed, even angry. But those lamentations should immediately be followed by praise and vows of trust. Keep faith that God knows everything – including what is best for you and He hasn’t forgotten about your needs.

Stay Grateful

One of the best ways to ward off disappointment is to be grateful for what you already have. If you are complaining, you aren’t giving thanks. God has already given you many things and He has helped you thus far. As disappointed as you might be, try to focus on the blessings in your life.

Philippians 4:6

I know what I’m saying in this post isn’t vogue. Lots of modern churches would have you believe that God is chummy with you and they focus on messages of prosperity. But let’s take a lesson from Job. God is not a peer. He is holy (set apart) and we should practice reverence. Additionally, while occasional messages of prosperity are uplifting, it shouldn’t be our Christian focus. God is not a genie in a lamp here to grant us wishes. I just think sometimes we forget, He does not exist to do our bidding; we exist to do His. Be encouraged that God wants what is good for us (even if it isn’t what we think it is) and He will bless us. If you need proof of that, count your blessings.

Encourage Yourself in God’s Goodness

When we feel disappointed by God, you may question God’s goodness. In those dark moments, remind yourself of God’s character. This is how to handle disappointment with God.

Just

God is often described as just in scripture. I find amazing peace in knowing God is just! Not only is He just, but scripture says He “loves justice.” Justice is all about making what is wrong, right. No one can mistreat you, no one can take something away from you without God later making it right. He promises to payback what was wrong. Knowing this should curb feelings of disappointment or unfairness.

Merciful

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love,” (Micah 7:18) To be merciful is to extend grace when none is deserved. It means He pardons us, is slow to anger, and does not stay angry. Knowing that God is merciful tells us there are no grudges held against us. God is not spiteful. Take comfort that God is not “punishing you” by not answering your prayer the way you desire.

Holy / Righteous

To be holy literally translates to “separate.” God is separate from us in the sense that there is no evil in his character. Simply put, God is good…all the time. He is separated from sin and the sinful world. He does not participate in sin. Therefore, knowing that He has no evil in him tells us His intentions are good for us and we can trust him.

Compassionate

Have you ever wondered why Jesus came into this world as a baby? Why not come at the age of 30, just in time to start his ministry? Ask yourself, why put up with sickness, temptation, betrayals, and bad days? Why weep over the death of Lazarus when he knew he’d raise him from death only minutes later? So you would know He is compassionate. He understands your pain. God knows what troubles you. He’s been there. He sympathizes with your problems. Knowing that He is compassionate and that he has gone out of his way to show you, should bring you comfort.

Rich In Love

God’s character is loving. It’s a love we can’t even comprehend. But let’s start with the fact that He couldn’t be separated from us and therefore sent His son down to pay the price for our sin. (seeJohn 3:16)

Take a moment and read my earlier post Identity in Christ. Stop and see yourself through the eyes of God. Read what He has to say about you and how much He loves you. Once you remind yourself about how good God is and how much He loves you, it’s hard to feel disappointed for long.

Find the Fruit in Your Wilderness

For Christians there is purpose to our suffering. Everything, including our trials should bring us closer to God. How often do we become complacent when things are smooth and easy? Hardship reminds us we can’t stray too far from God because we need him.

Furthermore, everything is orchestrated to further God’s kingdom and proclaim His glory. If you remain steadfast and hope in the Lord during your troubles, you also become a witness for the Kingdom – a living example of the divine grace that passes all understanding. That strength in the time of adversity invites non-believers to desire the strength only God can provide and thereby the church.

Spread the gospel. When necessary, use words.

We are ambassadors of Christ. Remember…God is in the business of divine self-promotion.

Grateful For “Unanswered” Prayers

When I look back over the course of my life, I’m grateful for prayers to which God said no. Ultimately, what he gave me was far better. In fact, some things were so good, I never could have even imagined asking for it. Time and time again he has proven to me to just trust him and let him work out my problems for me. God’s ultimate solutions don’t disappoint.

If you feel this message has helped you, save it for later by bookmarking or pinning it. Share it with a friend who needs it. I pray the Holy Spirit speaks to you and comforts you.


If you are struggling with how to handle disappointment with God, leave a prayer request in the comments below. I’d love to pray for you.

April Scripture Reading: Depression & Grief

Overcome depression, sorrow, and grief with these powerful scriptures. Speak truth into your life with the Holy living word of God. Join me for April Scripture Reading: Depression and Grief

SCRIPTURE READING: depression and grief

A Season of Sadness

I live with depression. I know well the feeling of complete hopelessness. Depression and grief has a way of stopping time. The moment can feel endless. You may find it hard to believe that situations or feelings will ever change or improve. I promise you friend, it will. It’s a season – and seasons don’t last. Read what the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) says:

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
            A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;
            A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
            A time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
            A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.

A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
            A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
            A time to be silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;
            A time for war and a time for peace.

Depression, sorrow, grief is for an appointed time. We have seasons of abundance and seasons of loss. I love what the Psalmist says: “Weeping may endure the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) The good news is this: this season of your life is temporary. One day, it won’t hurt like this. One day this will be over. God will bring you out of the pit (Psalm 103:4).

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A Time to Cry

When calamity strikes, it is our nature to wonder why. We want answers, no – we demand them. Our humanness wants explanations in order to process loss. But sometimes there are no answers. There are no reasons, at least not earthly ones.

In times like these, we must remember that all things that happen in our lives are designed to draw us closer to Him. And our trials? What about our hurt, pain and suffering? Yes, that too. He wants us to fervently seek Him. Secondly, our weakness, our tears, our hardships all exist to magnify His glory. In order to be our Savior, we must first need saving. See what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Not convinced? Read what the Psalmist writes in 50:15:

“Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”

Simply put, God uses our pain to show non-believers how He saves.

Death

Maybe you are struggling with a loved one who has passed on. I encourage you to comfort yourself with the living word of God. He has promised that we will be reunited with those we love. We will see them again. Therefore, death is not the end.

I have learned that grief comes in waves. Like the ebb and flow of an ocean, grief subsides allowing you to catch your breath for a moment, then it seems to overcome you again all at once. One minute you think you’re doing better. Then a reminder or a memory will surface and the thought of having to live the rest of your life without them seems unbearable.

Perhaps it is not the physical death of a person you are grieving, but the death of something else. Your dream, health, a job, a friendship, a marriage. Maybe you are so overcome by disappointment you can’t see a happy future. There is one. He has promised it.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

despair
Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

Battling Feelings of Grief

Remember Who God Is

Compassionate

I count at least 20 times in scripture where God and Jesus are described as compassionate. Paul writes in Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Jesus understands our suffering. He empathizes with us. He is compassionate towards our troubles.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.

Psalm 145:8-9

Unchanging

The character of God is unchanging. “I am the Lord. I change not.” (Malachi 3:6). Everything is subject to change except for God. Read that again. God does not change. Therefore neither do His promises. I love an easily overlooked verse in Psalm 11. “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3). In other words, when the floor beneath you gives way, what should we do? The answer can be found in the next verse. “The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord sits on his throne in Heaven.” This declaration reminds us: when all that is good falls apart, God is still in control. He is still on his throne. He is not shaken by our troubles. God does not change.

Put Your Hope In God

The Psalms are a wonderful comfort in times of trouble. The Psalms demonstrate the cry of someone in need of help and refuge. They echo our troubled hearts. They also model how we should pray (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication). But Psalm 42 also describes what we should do when we are sorrowful and disturbed.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

The Psalmist tells us to put our hope in the Lord. Hope is the happy anticipation of good. It is the belief that God is a good God and He has good things in store for us (Jer 29:11) . We get hope by praising God in the midst of our sorrow and by comforting ourselves with His promises.

praying over him

Give Up Your Ashes

One of my favorite verses in the bible is Isaiah 61:3. It is the messianic prophesy of why Christ came and died for us. This lone scripture has brought me so much peace when I’ve been overcome with depression and grief. Here is the truth:

to provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” “Then people will call them “Oaks of Righteousness”, “The Planting of the LORD”, in order to display his splendor.

Isaiah 61:3

Beauty instead of ashes. Ashes represent what is left over after something has burned away. The leftovers. The broken pieces. But here is the rub. An exchange has to take place. Note that scripture says, “instead of.” Some translations say “for.” You must give your ashes to God. Give Him the brokenness and remains. Give Him the ashes and He’ll give you restoration.

Remain Thankful

Another way to pull ourselves out of sadness is to try and get the focus off ourselves and on our creator. You can do this by praising God through thanksgiving. It is hard to be downtrodden when you are remembering all the good God has already done for you. This is why Paul says to “set your mind on the higher things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Scripture Reading: Depression & Grief

Thank you for joining me for April Scripture Reading: Depression & Grief. In the comments below, I’d love to hear how I can pray for you. In case you missed it, see also March Scripture Reading: Fear & Anxiety.