On a couple of occasions during the last week I’ve chatted with people who were worried that God was disappointed in them. Disappointed in them for being afraid, for failing, for various things.
I told them it wasn’t – still isn’t – true, and now I want to tell you.
I think a lot of us, if we think about God at all, have the idea that we must be big disappointments to Him. Our parents – perhaps especially our fathers – may have told us that we were a disappointment. They had hoped for so much more. We’ve chosen the wrong career or not done well enough in the right one. We’ve married the wrong person, or not married soon enough, or not married at all. Worse, maybe we’ve failed in a career or marriage, or not visited them or talked to them often enough – or too much.
Sometimes it seems that whatever we do or don’t do, it’s never right and we’re just a great big disappointment.
Even if our parents are not like that, there may be others who are and we somehow come to believe that God is the same.
He is not like that!
Yes, He cares about our decisions, but none of them come as a surprise to Him. He knows what we are going to get right and wrong before we do. And since He is never surprised He cannot be disappointed. (I could write another post about how His knowledge about us interacts with our ability to choose, but let’s leave that as a mystery for now.)
You see, disappointment can only be the result of a situation arising or a person behaving in a way that fails to meet our expectations. God has no expectations (because He knows us) but He is full of expectancy (because He knows Himself!)
It’s hard to convey this paradox, but one analogy is that of the parent with a young child. They are full of expectancy, looking forward to seeing the child develop and grow up, but they are not disappointed if, as a toddler, they walk a few steps and fall down. They don’t expect perfect walking and will pick the child up and encourage them. Next time they will walk a bit further.
Although you can see plenty of apparent disappointment in the Old Testament (the “old arrangement”), under the “new arrangement” we see love and forgiveness, mercy and grace.
The one person Jesus might have been really disappointed with was Peter. Peter was warned about denying Jesus, but proudly declared that he would rather die. But within 24 hours he had denied even knowing Jesus, adding some swear words for emphasis!
What did Jesus say when he met Peter?
Did He say, “Peter, you’re a real disappointment. I warned you and you still did it. After three years with me to teach you, I had hoped for better!” No, he asked Peter if he loved Him. He asked three times, not to rub it in that Peter denied Him three times, but because Peter need to hear himself three times that he was, at least, fond of Jesus. And at each repetition Jesus gave Peter a mission.
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
We may feel that we let God down in many ways, even many times a day, but He is not disappointed.
As He did to the woman in John 8:11, Jesus says to us, with such a tender expression in His eyes, “I do not condemn you… Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
And He might add, “Do you love me? Then pass it on…”