I’ve heard people say this, and they mean well, but…
They mean well – they say it as an encouragement, they say it to people who are struggling and they want to give them hope. But here’s the problem: if you give someone hope by promising them x, and then x doesn’t materialise, that’s a recipe for devastation. And if you promise them x about God and x doesn’t materialise, that’s a recipe for that person then giving up on God.
So before promising people stuff, you need to check if that stuff is actually true.
Now, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog, I love God – so what’s my problem with the idea that God can’t possibly let people down?
Here’s my problem with this notion: I’ve met people who feel he has let them down, and I can see why they feel that way – it’s all about our expectations.
To take an extreme, fictitious example: say there’s someone – let’s call him Joe – who is sure that God will provide him with cherry ice cream every Wednesday for the rest of his life. He heard some crazy preacher making some crazy promises and he totally fell for it. Joe is, I’m sure we all realise, going to be disappointed and feel God has let him down when Wednesday comes and there’s no cherry ice cream for him.
Now that was a deliberately made-up trivial example, but in reality there are much more serious situations where God doesn’t live up to people’s expectations, and the result can be devastating. That’s why I felt it’s worth blogging about – because there are people out there going through real heart ache, and that heart ache is made worse by feeling God has let them down. People who, for instance, have lost a young family member to cancer. That’s one of the hardest things to cope with – watching a child suffer and die, a child who is your own son or your own little brother. There are no words to describe the anguish, the pain, the grief. And if on top of that agony you also have the extra pain of feeling God has let you down? If you trusted God before this happened, and you kept hoping and… no, he didn’t step in miraculously to save the little boy. He let him suffer and die.
I’m thinking here of a young boy I knew. And I choke up when I think of him dying – I choke up, and I wasn’t that close to him. How much worse for those who were, for his parents and his siblings – it is one of the most heart rending things ever.
I prayed for him while he was ill. I prayed, knowing that God can heal.
But I also know that God doesn’t always do that. In fact, when it happens we call it a miracle – it’s not the norm, it’s not how things go most of the time.
If your expectation is that God won’t allow you or your loved ones to suffer, then you will be disappointed. If you expect him to miraculously heal your loved ones and not let them die, you will be disappointed.
If you build your understanding of what God is like on the solid rock of his written Word, the Bible, then you will see that God doesn’t promise us a life without pain and suffering – he only promises to be with us through it. If you read the book of Job you’ll see that God does allow people to go through horrendous suffering for no sin of their own!
We live in a fallen world, and pain and suffering are part of the deal. If you want to shake your fist at someone, I suggest our forefathers Adam and Eve, who brought this onto the world. God made a world that was good and beautiful – it was, he said at the end of creation, very good. He placed us humans in a wonderful place – and we made a complete and utter mess of it. There was no disease before sin. There was no death. No decay. No pain. It was perfect, but through human rebellion it was spoiled and that’s why there’s now stuff like cancer and there’s kids who die.
If you expect God to magically protect you and your loved ones from the consequences of human sin, then yes, God will let you down.
What can you trust God to do? You can trust him to live up to promises he really has made – so I’d encourage you to study the Bible and learn what these are.
You can trust him that if you’ve put your faith in Jesus for your salvation, he’ll be with you through all the pain and suffering of this life, and when you die he’ll take you to be with him forever.
And you can trust him that one day Jesus will come back and put the world to rights, and then there will be no more pain or suffering or death.
But for now – we still live in a post Genesis 3 world, which includes some really horrible pain and suffering. If only we hadn’t sinned and rebelled against God… but we did. And sadly we continue to do that. If God were to allow us to suffer the full consequences we deserve, we wouldn’t be here – but thanks to his grace and mercy he has given us a way back, through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, and he has been giving us so much time to repent and be saved!
God will only let you down if you have unrealistic expectations. Grab hold of the solid rock of Jesus Christ and the Bible, and you will not be disappointed. God is faithful, and keeps his promises – the promises he really has made.