Has God let you down?

I have hesitated to write this as it refers, though indirectly, to people who are close to me and who I respect a great deal.  My point is less about the people who I’ve heard say this, and more about unpacking the understanding and/or worldview from which such sayings/thinking come.

Perhaps you have heard someone say this, or something like this: “People will always inevitably let you down, but God will never, ever let you down.”

Really?

I type this with no fear of being struck by lightning (thank you for your prayers in this regard).  I would suppose, though, that many, many people, if honest, would admit to feeling they’ve been let down by God more times than they can count.

Of course, many of these stories would be about how people who claim to follow and serve and love God have let them down. Let’s face it; Christians (and perhaps folk from other faiths as well) talk a good game about how good God is and has been to us.  But then, when it comes to following Jesus’ example or actually stepping into the hard work of allowing our lives to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, we instead purchase bumper stickers that say things like

“Christians aren’t perfect; just forgiven.”

Or we tweet things like “Don’t look at me, look at Jesus. #faithful”

I, for one, will not tell anyone that God will never, or has never, let them down.  Rather, I will invite people to share about how they might feel God has let them down.

Then, as a pastor of God’s people, I will work to lead fellow Christ-followers to live and work in ways that embody a God we would like to think never lets anyone down.

As we learn to stop letting people down, we don’t have to tell them about a God who doesn’t.

8 thoughts on “Has God let you down?

  1. Does this relate to expecting God to control everything? Or are those “dark nights of the soul” when our faith is challenged to grow and feel God’s presence in our lives?
    This is an excellent post!

    • I think it does relate (for those who say things like “God will never let you down”) to expecting God to control everything, though I’m not sure. A recent read has influenced the way I think about God in those terms (see The Nature of Love: A Theology in my 2011 reading list)

      I think we ought to give people space to say they feel God has let them down – especially with such things as “dark nights of the soul.” I also wonder who we think we are when we tell them God hasn’t let them down.

  2. I have felt at times that God let me down. After the fact, I have always migrated back to the interpretation that God knows more than I do and that God’s purposes are beyond my understanding … rather than interpreting my disappointment and despair as evidence that God is unreliable. Being “let down” is more about having unmet expectations … and my expectations are not infallible.

    • Great point, Kim. Expectations are not only not infallible, they can be dang messy and tricky too.

      I would like to think that everyone, given a decade or two, could get to a place of looking back and seeing events, tragedies, etc., in terms other than God letting them down. In fact, I’d like my life to be one that makes an argument (most often without words) that God is with us even, or especially, when we feel most let down.

    • Kim, I appreciate your comment. It is hard to separate my expectations from what I THINK God has promised. And right now I feel very hurt and that “God messed with me”. It will be interesting to see what I have learned when on the other side of this—right now I’m in the thick of darkness and seeking God to help me out.

  3. I would like to throw the book of Job into this conversation. I will not rant on how the Job is so commonly misinterpreted; but I would like to offer the opinion that Job felt like God let him down. I appreciate Kim’s words, “that God knows more than I do and that God’s purposes are beyond my understanding.” This is the essence of Job. We will never, nor should we ever, fully understand God.

  4. I am just done for! I have lived my life for the Lord and taught my kids about him and I feel like he has left me and don’t care about me!

    • I don’t know if this helps or not, Lisa, but from what I’ve read, Mother Teresa herself felt the same way as you – that God had left her – perhaps even for years.

      As a pastor, the way I encourage people to deal with this is that we are to model the presence of God for and to others.

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