To Whom Shall We Go?
When someone close to you lets you down, even if it was unintentional, it can be a painful experience. You might feel like your hopes have been dashed, and now you must regroup mentally and emotionally and come up with “Plan B.” Recovering from such an experience doesn’t happen overnight. Hurt feelings, disappointment and even a sense of betrayal can linger for a long time, sometimes surging up in your memory at the most unexpected of moments. Painful as it is, I think most of us understand that this sort of experience is par for the course when dealing with other humans. No one is perfect, after all, and sometimes despite their best efforts, people will fail us. God is the only one who is perfect. God is the only one who will never fail us. What, then, are we to do when we feel as though he has let us down?
It’s a near certainty that at some point something will happen that presents you with an opportunity to feel like God let you down. Maybe it already has. Maybe you’re right in the middle of it as you’re reading this. Maybe you’ve turned your back on God because he didn’t come through for you. What are you supposed to do when you’re mad at God?
God Loves You. Period.
The first step to working through your feelings of disappointment is to recognize that God truly loves you, no matter what. Throughout Scripture, we see God relate himself to us as a father to his children. Among the many facets of such a comparison, there are two in particular that I want to draw your attention to.
As natural parents, sometimes we must tell our children no, and when we do, it’s not because we dislike them or wish them harm. Sometimes, it’s for their own safety, like in that classic film, “A Christmas Story.” Ralphie wanted a Red Ryder BB gun, but everyone kept telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Other times, it’s for their maturity and character development. Maybe you have the money to buy your son that new bicycle he’s been asking for, but choose instead you make him find odd jobs at home or over at grandma’s house to earn the money for himself. In either situation, the child probably feels disappointed, but it doesn’t change the fact that you love him.
The second truth about parenting is that we cannot control the actions of others. When your daughter comes home distraught because she’s experienced her first breakup, you feel her pain. You hold her close. You tell her that she’s a beautiful young woman and that she’s strong and that you love her. The one thing you can’t do, though, is fix it for her, because it’s not within your power to do so. The parallel here is that God feels our pain when other humans break our hearts, too. We are all free moral agents, meaning that God will not impose his will upon us. If he could, then the story of Adam and Eve would have unfolded very differently. The truth is that sometimes things happen to us because of others’ choices, and as much as God wants to fix it for you, he just can’t. He wants to wipe your tears, love you through it, and bring you to a place where you have a smile on your face again — if you’ll let him.
Maybe your marriage was in trouble, and you prayed and prayed for God to help you save it, but your spouse left anyway. It’s very easy in such a situation to be mad at God because you feel like he didn’t answer your prayers. The truth is that his heart is broken as much as yours is; maybe even more, because now you’re blaming him for something that wasn’t his to control. He wants to throw his arms around you and pull you close, but can’t because you’re flailing away at him in your anger and pushing him away.
There is No Other Name.
The second step to healing your broken heart is understanding that God is your only source for healing. You won’t find healing in your old life, or at the bottom of a bottle, or in bed with strange flesh. You won’t find it in Muhammad, Buddha or atheism. Let’s take a look at John chapter 6. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus lays the smack down in the synagogue in Capernaum, saying that he is the only way to the father, and that it’s only through his flesh and blood that they can have eternal life. It got them pretty stirred up, and not in a good way. In verse 60, even his followers said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” Let’s pick it up in verse 66:
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”— John 6:66-69 (New King James Version)
Who left him? Verse 60 tells us that it was Jesus’ followers who left, and not just a few of them. The Bible says “many” left him. Why? Well, think about it: These were people who believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They had probably told their families and friends. Some of them may have even made some significant sacrifices to follow him. Now here he is in the synagogue preaching a message that, to their sensibilities, makes him sound like an absolute nut job. I can imagine them saying, “What do you mean, we’re supposed to eat your flesh and drink your blood? What kind of lunatic are you?” Their hopes for a messiah had been dashed. Surely, they felt let down.
It must have been some kind of mass exodus, because in verse 67, Jesus turned to the twelve and said, “Well, what about you guys? Are you gonna split, too?” Then Peter said something smart: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” At first glance, that might not seem all that earth-shaking, but let’s look at it in the Amplified Bible:
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]. — John 6:68 (Amplified Bible)
Despite the tough words Jesus had just spoken, and even though maybe Peter was feeling disillusioned and let down, somehow he knew deep down that Jesus was still his only hope for eternal life. No one and nothing outside of Jesus the Christ had the answers he needed.
Let’s bring this home. If you feel like God has let you down, who else are you going to turn to? What higher court is there to which you can appeal? If you turn your back on God – and satan would love nothing more – then you turn your back on eternal life. You’re turning your back on the only one who loves you unconditionally, who feels your pain and wants to hug you and heal you if you’ll let him.
Yes, life can hurt. People can break our hearts. God never promised us a life filled with rainbows and unicorns. Quite the opposite, in fact:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33 (New King James Version)
The good news is that God wants only the best for you. When you feel like he has let you down, remember his words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (New King James Version)
When it feels like God has let you down, trust that he hasn’t. Maybe things didn’t work out how you wanted, but don’t fall into the temptation of blaming God. That’s exactly what the devil wants – to drive a wedge between you and your savior. Don’t let him. When you’re in pain, don’t run from God, run to him. Throw yourself into his embrace. Cry in his arms. Don’t break his heart by pushing him away.