Disappointment and Disbelief

I walked into Good Friday service with a chip on my shoulder. And guilt.  Guilt because I had, once again, not really practiced the 10-days of fasting that the community was doing together.  I had half-heartedly set aside time for prayer a couple days that week. But I had a chip on my shoulder because I was still waiting to hear from God about something I had longed for since, well, what felt like forever. My hope was fading to disappointment and sadness.

That week I convinced myself that God was tired of hearing my same prayer. I imagined him saying, I died on a cross for you and this is what you spend your time thinking about?

More guilt.  Why couldn’t I be content with what I had? Why couldn't I rejoice in the gift of the cross? Why did this disappointment keep coming back? 

I sat in the darkness in the sanctuary, distracted from worship until it was time for communion.  I didn’t want to share because I didn’t know how answer the reflection question. I wanted to bolt to the back. I wasn’t in the thankful mood. I felt alone in the sadness.  I had given up believing that God would answer me.

I didn’t run to the back since I figured I would let everyone else at the table share first.  But we had a quiet group.  People shared briefly then stood awkwardly staring at the bread and wine. I felt like the child who crosses her arms in stubbornness, refusing to say anything. Then I heard in a whisper--My cross is big enough for your disappointment. You can bring it to me.

I reacted quickly thinking, “But don’t you get tired of me praying the same prayer?

Again in the silence I heard—You can bring your sadness and disappointment to me everyday if that’s what you need.

“Everyday?”

Everyday.

I later shared the struggle and experience with a friend. “That’s powerful,” she said and paused for a bit. “But let me ask you this—do you believe that God is good, right and perfect?”

Of course I do, I wanted to snap back.  Then I thought, “What does this have to do with anything?”  

She went on to share a story of how she questioned her identity and right to be a mother. In the midst of her tears she heard God saying, Why would you question this identity I’ve given you?  I’ve made you a mother.  Don’t doubt what I am doing.

Then I got it. Her question took aim at a lie I clung to in my sadness. I doubted God. I doubted he was good. I believed he was holding out on me—he was limiting my life, my identity and what I wanted to do.   

My stubborn heart wrestled with the sudden awareness of this lie. I could bring my disappointment to God all I wanted, but if I really wanted to get anywhere, I had to deal with the lie I believed about God. I talk at length about believing he’s good, but in the hard moments of disappointment, I choose to believe something different in my heart.

 I’ve been slow to dig away at the deception in my heart. But in the middle of this struggle, this verse ran across my mind: 

 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” –Exodus 13:13-14

The passage reminded me that the Lord is for me.  He is not holding out on me.  The cross is proof that he is good and he fights for me, despite my crossed arms and disbelief.  He is for me, not because of what I've done, but because of his love. He is for me. And I need only to be still. 

 

Sarah Papé is excited to return to writing after shedding lots of blood, sweat and tears on a degree in communication. She currently spends weekdays teaching middle school math and science.  In college she stumbled upon a service-learning trip to inner-city Chicago, which eventually led her down a path to advocate for social justice within urban schools.  On weekends, she restores her soul with outdoor adventures, long conversations with friends and reminders that through Jesus Christ, grace really does change everything.