I hate disappointment. It messes me up. Especially when it’s directed at God. “What? Can God disappoint?” Sure — if our expectations are off the mark. God never promises to give us the desires of our hearts if our hearts look to things he doesn’t want us to have. And in my case, it may not be so much that I wanted something he didn’t, as much as it wasn’t time yet. It’s a future thing; a timing thing. Like a kid being told to wait until Christmas to open that present he really really wants right now, I felt that frustration and disappointment. And like a spoiled kid, it affected my feelings toward God.
This morning, apologizing to God for reacting to my bruised feelings, I began thinking again about what it means to really trust. Like that kid trusting his parents will take care of him, even when they say “No” and he doesn’t get his way all the time. And I realized again, that it’s all about relationship. And really, that’s all God wants from us. Our imperfections and failures, our faults and bad behavior do not trouble him as much as our disaffected relationship with him.
When we’re in need, when we try to work up our faith enough to believe for our requests to him, our actions, our performance will never be enough. “It is all by his grace — not about you … not by your works so no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9). We can’t try to muster up our faith by recounting how we’ve succeeded in keeping his commandments, how we’ve mastered sin in our lives, how many good things we’ve done, or how holy we’ve become. We approach him with the confidence that only comes through an intimate relationship with him — a relationship based on what he’s already done for us. And ultimately when we stand before him on that Great Day of Judgement, he will gladly overlook our shortcomings, cover them over and erase them with his Son’s blood — all because of our relationship with him.
Somehow, that eased my mind, calmed my disrupted peace. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy …” (Tit 3:5). So, I messed up. I missed his timing. I got disappointed and my feelings hurt. But I can trust in this guy who loves me so much that he did everything that is required for me. He laid out his plan well in advance. He placed gifts along the road for me to pick up as I cross them. He prepared good things for me to do long before I ever reached them. I can relax in that. I can let it go. My plans and my timing aren’t that important. I just have to keep walking and he will move the road so that it goes in the right direction. Or like riding a tandem bicycle, he’s in the front seat steering, and I’m in the back seat. I don’t need to know exactly where we’re going or how to get there. I just gotta keep on pedalling, and he will get us to where we need to be. But life truly is “built for two”: if I stop moving, we don’t go anywhere. I have a crucial role to play too. But it’s not my job to steer. It’s my job to pedal.
All these images merged in my mind, re-inspiring my trust in him, and rekindling the love that my buised feelings masked. It’s by his grace, his work, his plans, his timing, his steering. All I have to do is keep moving through life, tied to him, and he’ll get us where he wants us. And for that, I can let go of my disappointment. Things don’t have to go the way I expect or when I expect them. I can let my agenda and timetable fall to the floor. It’s okay. When I consider that he’s done all that’s required, I can trust him. That’s the very foundation of my relationship with him.
And as long as I keep pedalling in his direction and don’t get bogged down in the mud of disappointment and mistaken expectations, I can relax and enjoy the ride.