Do you ever find yourself asking, “God, where are you?”
Pastor Bobby Coverston said he does, and admits that one of the biggest struggles in his faith is that it sometimes feels as if God is arbitrary. Why does he choose to bless some people and others are left to squirm in uncertainty and pain?
Bobby examined the "Ministry of Disappointment" in his message on Sunday, June 3 at Community Church and how we should respond when things don’t go as we had hoped. Here are some key points:
*In the book of Job in the Old Testament, Job essentially lost everything that was important to him, even though he was a faithful servant of God. At first Job continues to praise God. But later he doubts God’s goodness and accuses God of being reckless, unfair and unjust. God doesn’t give Job a direct answer for why he is suffering. Instead, God shows Job the entire universe, the complexity of which Job can’t possibly comprehend. It leaves Job in a place of humility. He’s able to live in peace and fear of God. After this God restores to Job twice as much as everything he lost. Job losing everything was not a punishment, and getting it back was not a reward. God gives Job a gift. Job concludes that no matter what comes, he can trust God’s wisdom.
*Bobby said it would be easy for us to find a kindred spirit in Job because we’ve all experienced disappointment at some level. We have suffered the loss of a loved one, a job, health or material possessions. And like Job, we will ask: Where is God in the midst of our loss?
*We were designed to be in relationship with God, which presents high expectations. But at an early age, because of sin, we begin to chip away at those expectations. There’s a gap between our expectations and reality, which is filled with disappointment.
We normally do two things with this: lower our expectations and/or live in denial of reality by saying things are not that bad. When we do this we are leaving very little room to experience a full life because we are trying to minimize disappointment. It leaves only a small space for the cross of Christ to occupy our heart.
What we should do is embrace the disappointment, hard as that might be, because we leave more space to experience a full life. That also leaves an opportunity for the cross of Jesus to fill the disappointment gap and occupy a larger part of our heart.
*Bobby asked this question: What does God want from you? The common answers would likely include: love, sacrifice, obedience, trust, devotion, commitment, selflessness. Those are all good things but there’s a problem with that list. We’re in control of those things. What God wants from us is our need, which means we release control. God wants us to get to the point where our circumstances are so beyond our control that we cry out to him: I need you.
*Sometimes we are required to wait on God. We are a people that don’t like waiting. But in every Bible verse that refers to disappointment, none of them offer an escape. All of them offer an invitation from God to be with you in the midst of your waiting.
*In the story of Job, we find that Job remained faithful and never turned his back on God. But God did allow Job to question him and make his grievances known. When we’re struggling we can question God but should ultimately come to the point of acknowledging our need for him.
*Like Job, we need to get to the point where we can say to God: 'Your ways are higher than my own. I trust you.' That is a vulnerable and needy confession of faith. That is a release of the outcome, of what happens next. It is accepting the fact that what happens next may not be to my liking but I’m trusting in the promises God has given me. We are designed to want to make things go our way. Instead, we should release control to God and say: I need you.
*Bobby found that almost all the sermons about disappointment he reviewed were about how to rise above it or get out of it. Everything was evasive. What we need to learn is how to stay in the disappointment and see that it points to the hope we have. Our disappointment is not something to escape. It should point to a desire for more that was meant to be filled by God and God alone.
*Bobby said as a parent he has heard his kids say, “You hate me.” In his unhealthy parental moments he will argue with his kids and try to convince them it’s not true. In his healthy parental moments he will say, “OK,” and sit there with them. In his mind he will say: I know that you don’t know the truth of how much I love you, but I do.
How often have we treated God the same way when things don’t go our way: 'God, where are you, you must not love me.’ And God, like he did with Job, will sit there with us. He is gentle enough to hear us say things that are untrue. We don’t see the big picture as God does. God is saying: I know you don’t understand but I’m going to be here with you in it.
*What are circumstances you are experiencing right now where you can’t see above the hurt and loss? Don’t lower your expectations or live in denial. Simply say to God: I need you, and let the cross take up more space in your heart.
*Psalm 147.3 says God heals the broken-hearted and binds their wounds. It doesn’t say we won’t get hurt. It says he heals. We experience things that hurt us. The promise is that he’s there with us.