Six years ago, I wrote a post called “God Let Me Down, Now What?

When I wrote this post, I was in the process of healing from various trauma while dealing with difficult circumstances in my faith community that compounded the effects of trauma. All this made it challenging to carry on, day after day, with hope for the healed version of my future I desperately ached for.

Words were challenging to put together. Thoughts were often in snippets. Among those snippets were expressions of deep passion in my heart, rooted in some sense that God’s goodness is greater than we know.

Over the coming years, I continued learning and developing my writing skills, skills in communication, and trauma & abuse-informed care. I also received numerous comments on my old post and heard the hearts of individuals struggling with the message.

On the one hand, it’s just plain difficult to face the reality of our expectations and how they fuel more pain and disappointment. On the other hand, my desire to share a hope-filled message missed nuance with a richer understanding of other people’s experiences.

The following content and video come from a place of personally experiencing long seasons of disappointment and pain. It also comes from a place of experiencing healing from trauma with significant growth. And it comes from a place of understanding more about how our nervous systems work and what happens in the aftermath of spiritual, emotional, or psychological trauma.

I hope this message is helpful to you. If it is challenging to hear, I get that too.

 

Saying, “God Let Me Down!”

When you’re weary from trying so hard to do good things, all the right things, and things don’t go right, it’s exhausting. Quite frankly, this path gets stronger over time, leading to experiences of disappointment, discouragement, and, eventually, despair. You may feel an increased load of hurt, anger, and sadness and notice thoughts of wanting to give up.

Thoughts may sound like, “God, you let me down!” Or, it seems God’s not worth your time anymore, so you give up on God while carrying thoughts like, “God let me down” mixed with “what’s the point?”

You wanted a certain outcome. And no matter how hard you tried to get it, or prayed for it, you didn’t get it.

Maybe the outcome you want looks like a healthy, mutually enjoyable relationship with someone who isn’t able or willing to offer this right now. Maybe you were hoping for specific responses and actions by people in your church, your family, your friend group, or in your place of employment. Maybe you’re praying for healing for yourself or a loved one.

You may have even pursued appropriate steps to reconcile or make amends with someone after you’ve done something wrong.

When we don’t get the beautiful end to the thing we hoped would change, it sucks.

Why I Can’t Sing the Words, “God, You Never Let Me Down”

In church, we sang a song which included multiple repetitions of the phrase, “God, you never let me down.”

While in the midst of overwhelming pain & a highly dysregulated nervous system from to the trauma I experienced, I paused. I couldn’t sing those words. The message, for me, stated that God wouldn’t disappoint me. That I would never feel let down by God.

I hear the lyrics as a message that tries to convey attributes of God that never change, while dismissing the reality many of experience.

We do feel let down by God.

We feel let down when we hope for one thing and receive another. When we seek out something we see as good, but don’t get it.

Feeling let down is the effect of outcomes not matching expectations.

What we do with that is a whole other story.

God’s character doesn’t change. He is always true to who he is and how he works.

And still, throughout scripture we see many who feel let down (disappointed) when they perceived God didn’t do what they though he should do or what they wanted. [See Job 19; Exodus 5:22-23; Psalm 13; Jeremiah 20:7] We can also feel let down when we feel rejected abandoned, like we see in David and Jesus’s expressions, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46]

How Expectations Fuel Frustration

It makes sense to feel let down by God. What we want may be what is good, but we cannot make others do what we want them to do. God doesn’t do that either. This leaves us feeling disappointed and disillusioned.

Hopes and dreams can easily turn into expectations of how things should turn out, because we want the changes we want and we want them the way we see them. Even when God desires the same things, he doesn’t force anyone to do the good he desires. God also remains true to his overarching story of redemption and reconciliation, his vast view of how all things work and all the people he created, or the ways he operates.

We desire to know what is good and seek it out, but our views are limited and we are responsible to manage our selves (not others).

Unmet expectations fuel disappointment and frustration because there is a gap between what we we see and want with the reality of what God and others do.

Difficult realities are just that. Difficult. Sometimes downright horrible and evil. Even so, if we expect that we will get X, Y, and Z from God if we do A, B, and C, we’re likely to experience ongoing disappointment.

What Can You Do When You Feel Let Down & Disappointed?

If you’re feeling the effects disappointment, frustration, pain, hurt, anger, or despair, I hope these tips will be helpful. What I’m offering below are just a few options. You may be interested in the following articles I wrote for Crosswalk which highlight important elements for healing and recovering from spiritual trauma. Even if your experience isn’t rooted in spiritual harm, the content may be helpful.

10 Tips for Getting Started

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Notice your experience (including your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations).
  3. Name the disappointments.
  4. Consider what desires were not met.
  5. Notice unmet expectations.
  6. Get curious about why those expectations are there how having those expectations impact you.
  7. Notice how the expectations, and how you’re affected by them, impact your ability to engage well with God, other people, and daily activities.
  8. Feel the feelings alone with God.
  9. Feel the feelings with others who allow space for big emotions.
  10. Use Unleash Sheets to process the facts around the disappointment, your thoughts and feelings related to them, and bring it all before God to see what he might have for you.

It’s not easy to notice what your expectations are, much less to acknowledge and attend to them. Facing the patterns you’ve built over the years, including expectations of how others should act, what God will do, and how your perceived good works should lead to perceived outcomes, takes a lot of courage.

If it’s too much today, that’s OK. Start with noticing what’s there.

One way expectations show up is in the language you use with God, others, and even yourself. When your words & thoughts focus on problems you don’t have responsibility for, it causes a host of problems.

For example, if you focus on what is out of your control, you’ll likely try to control what others do and live bound to expectations of what God and others will do which disregard the choices only they can make. As a result, you experience increased anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, resentment, ruminating thoughts, etc.

You can experience something different, and that difference can include more feelings of being calm at your core without losing hope for what could be.

 

Continuing Steps with Support

In the growth community, Cultivate Together, I’ve been talking about two concepts that help explore this further, Self-Stewardship and Soul-Stewardship. Another concept that applies in a growth process here includes learning things like how to recognize defensive hope that blocks healing and learning to differentiate internal versus external control. In addition to addressing these topics in the growth community, I also offer training, experiential practice, and Unleash Sheets prompts that help you explore these concepts more intimately between you and God.

For where ever you are today and how ever your heart is doing, I pray your find the next step that helps you navigate what’s difficult to face so you can experience what’s beautifully available in front of you.

 

Share This