Have you ever lived through a season where you just felt disappointed. You were so sure about something only to have it not turn out the way you imagined? These are hard moments. They are even more difficult when they are moments when you feel God has disappointed you.
It’s been 8 months since my laryngectomy. 8 months since I laid myself down on the altar in faith expecting a much different outcome. I remember sitting in the bed in pre-op at the hospital. I was so sure the last two years of standing firm would bring me someplace other than where I woke up. Larynx removed. Two pipes separated. Neck breather the rest of my life. No vocal cords.
It’s taken me 8 months to get to a place where I can publicly confess I have been very disappointed with God.
We all have things in our life. Places where we stand in faith expecting break through. What do we do when the answers we expect don’t come?
I’m reminded of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Talk about men who spent 3 years on a spiritual and emotional roller coaster. They walked with Jesus for three years learning truth about the kingdom of God. Then Jesus was crucified and his body disappears. Here they are walking to Emmaus battling hopelessness and despair in a season where things didn’t turn out quite like they had imagined. They expected break through. They thought the Messiah was going to come and bring freedom to his chosen people, but the result wasn’t quite what the disciples thought would happen.
Have you ever been there? Riding the coat tails of faith expecting break through in your marriage, over a loved one or for healing only to have answers come in a way that baffles you?
This was the disciples found themselves as they walked to Emmaus. Confused. Perplexed. Befuddled. They talked about it as they walked. Why didn’t God save him? Why did he have to die? Why did he disappear? I was so sure he was the Messiah. Was he? Maybe he wasn’t? But he had to be! I mean, you saw those miracles!
It’s in this conversation with a presumed stranger on the road where we, those who have been disappointed with God, can find valuable and reassuring comfort. Let’s dig in a little bit and take a look.
They meet a man. The man is Jesus but that revelation is kept from them. He asks them “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
This moment is funny to me. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew what they were talking about. He knew exactly where the disciples were in their disappointment and hopelessness. He also doesn’t respect social graces and just inserts himself into a stranger’s conversation. Keep in mind, they were kept from recognizing him. To them he was a complete stranger. Have you ever been out in public at a time when your emotions are raging and had a perfect stranger try to insert themself into your moment? “What’s wrong?” It’s usually pretty awkward. My response in those moments is usually closed. Yet the disciples politely reply with “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Basically, “how do you not know why we are upset? You must not be from around here.”
Jesus says, “What things?” He’s truly setting up the disciples for a moment.
They the disciples dump on this stranger. Everything comes pouring out. “About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a profit, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him.”
The next words are the words where we find overwhelming comfort in our moments of disappointment with God.
“But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
Let’s stop here for a moment. As I read this last week, these words stopped me in my tracks. The Holy Spirit took over and I just sat and meditated. This is exactly where I have been walking for the last 8 months. Why Lord? Why didn’t you heal me? Why did you let this happen to me? Why didn’t you save me from this when I stood in authority and power for two years? I had hoped that you were going to heal me. More than that, I knew you were going to heal me.
How many times have you in your heart, said the same thing? Let me phrase it a little differently.
“I had hoped God would ___________.”
What thing in your life have you been waiting on God to do, that either isn’t done yet or didn’t quite turn out the way you imagined? Fill in the blank.
Fix my marriage. Heal the cancer. Save my loved one. Land me that perfect job. Let us buy that dream home. Eradicate the tumor. Calm my rebellious child. Give me that promotion and raise at work. Give me better neighbors. Give me a child.
The book of John tells us Jesus appears to his disciples a another time. This is one of my favorite post crucifixion encounters with Jesus. In John 21:1-14 Jesus echoes the scenario of when he calls his disciples (Luke 5:1-11). Peter totally distraught goes back to what he knew before Jesus. Fishing. There’s a lot I could say about this encounter. If you want to hear a fabulous message on this passage, jump over here and listen to Dan Ison at True Vine Fellowship teach about what to do during empty net seasons. This message had me ugly crying. The type of emotional cry where the flood gates open up and months of emotions come pouring out in one cathartic flood of tears. It was so so good.
What I’ve come to realize is in these moments when we are so disappointed with God, when we are so utterly befuddled that we go back to what we know to try to fill the void of disappointment, there is one truth we see in Jesus’ moment with his disciples. He is here with us. He has not abandoned us. We need not adopt that orphan spirit in our soul.
Though our emotions are raging like a hurricane and our mind can’t make sense out of any of it, he is here with us. In this story, we see while the disciples were out in the water fishing in futility Jesus didn’t leave them alone in the boat. As they were bringing in empty net after empty net all night long, Jesus was on beach preparing for a moment of intimacy with them. John tells us that the disciples saw a fire with coals burning. This means the fire had been burning for a long time. If you’ve ever built a camp fire you know it takes several hours of burning wood for coals to form. To get glowing embers, you burn a fire for hours. Jesus didn’t just show up in the morning ready to make things new. He sat on the beach nearby watching all through the night.
As we wait for God to show up in our moment of need, there’s a deep and meaningful promise to remember. Let it comfort you. He’s not just going to show up in the morning. He’s not far off waiting for us to get to a place where we can receive him letting us drudge through our affliction and pain. No, my brother and my sister. He is on the beach preparing us for intimacy with him. We are not alone.
I don’t understand why my break through didn’t come the way I thought it would. I am very much like the disciples on the way to Emmaus. I’ve been walking my own Emmaus road baffled and defuddled. All I know to do is to allow myself to feel all the feels. As I work through the anger, pain and disappointment eventually letting myself get to a place where I can say in all honesty and in all surrender, “It is well.” Even though it doesn’t feel well, it really is well. Even though I don’t understand why things turned out the way they did and even when I can’t wrap my brain around why God didn’t miraculously heal me, I choose to be well. Today in my despair, pain, confusion and disappointment, I am choosing to be well. I know that though I don’t feel it, you are near, Lord. You are on the beach preparing for a season of intimacy with me. I don’t understand, but I trust.