Do we allow ourselves to be disappointed with God? To give voice to our frustrations with Him? For many of us, even the thought of being disappointed or frustrated with God smacks of arrogance or a lack of faith. “God is always good; how dare we express disappointment with Him?” we reason.
Yet the biblical authors routinely expressed their frustrations and disappointments with God. Such honesty expressed the depth of their faith.
Jeremiah often reflects the gamut of emotions regarding his relationship with God. In two instances, he articulates these emotions using the image of water. In chapter 2, he describes God as “the fountain of living water” (2:13 NLT), referring to the flowing water of a spring, which brings life and vegetation wherever it flows. Within the climate of the Middle East, Jeremiah notes that God is like a flowing spring of living water—bringing life-sustaining water to lands and people that can suffer under the summer heat.
Several chapters later, however, Jeremiah describes God much differently: “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You [God] be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail (literally, unfaithful waters)” (15:18 ESV; emphasis added).
The landscape of Israel is scarred by canyons that descend from the hills toward the coast in the west or the Jordan Valley in the east. As rain falls in the hills, it flows into the canyons, so that during the rainy season these canyons will have water in them that animals and humans can drink. When the heat of summer arrives, the water in these canyons evaporates, making them dry stream beds. A weary, thirsty traveler wandering through this landscape will “see” water in these stream beds—only to find them dry when he reaches them.
Jeremiah uses this image of the deceitful stream bed to describe his feelings about God. On the one hand, Jeremiah feels that God is a source of living, life-giving, water: a never-ending spring of faithful water. On the other hand, he finds himself disappointed with God and feels that He is a deceitful stream bed with unfaithful water.
It doesn’t matter if Jeremiah’s latter description accurately describes God. What matters is that Jeremiah feels this way about God and expresses his disappointment with God. Do we allow that kind of honesty with ourselves toward God? Do we have a view of faith that enables us to be brutally honest about our frustrations and displeasure with God? The biblical authors did; in fact, that was a dynamic part of their faith.
God often receives greater honor in the voicing of our honest frustrations than in dishonest praises.
The Bible certainly encourages us to praise God in the midst of difficult times, but it also encourages the honest expression of our frustrations and disappointments with God. And the expression of each is equally the voice of faith. In our personal lives and in our communities of faith, we need to allow both to be heard as part of our expression of our journey with the Lord.
Father, You are worthy of my praise, and You are big enough for my disappointments. Be God to me in the midst of both today. Amen.