When You Feel Like God Let You Down
Have you ever felt as though God let you down?
Have you ever blamed Him for a situation or circumstance that He allowed in your life?
Have you ever been offended by God?
We, the Offended, began our spiritual journeys much like every other believer. We heard God’s Word as it addressed our souls with the promise of a sweet and intimate relationship with our Savior. And so we entered in with joy, but not fully understanding what lay ahead. Our shallow roots never plumbed the depths of faith to find the richness that is in both blessing and in adversity. When the pressure, tribulation, and persecution that attend a life with God and His Word came, we fell away.
While the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 ultimately describes one’s eternity, we as believers are able to read this text and yield to God’s Sprit as He points out the particular type of unbelief that has carried our hearts away from God.
This story tells our story. “Hear then the parable of the sower.The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matt 13:18, 20-21)
The unfaithfulness illustrated in this text is a picture of our hearts – hearts that loved the truth of God until the hard times came, and then fixed themselves on earthly things, hearts that reinterpreted His character to fit personal experience. We found that this God was not to our liking and left Him. Our minds are able to recall the offense and the decision to withdraw our trust.
God unveils our souls for us in the very language He uses in this parable. The Greek word skandalizo to describes the response of one who has fallen away because of shallow roots. Though variously translated in English, the King James Version’s rendering of this word pierces my heart. It rightly accuses me of being offended by God, of doubting, turning against, and abandoning the One who is worthy of my full trust and unreserved obedience. It exposes my tendency to practice conditional love – a love that constantly reevaluates and reprioritizes my relationship with Him based on what He allows in my life.
My personal journey from offense to reconciliation has taken me through the pages of God’s Word where I have seen myself again and again. With the Pharisees I have been offended that God would not accept outward conformity and instead insisted on a transformed heart (Matt 15:10-12). With the disciples I have been offended by things I could not understand (Jn 6:48-61). And with successive disillusionments, I have exhibited the behavior that is always associated with an offended heart – grumbling and complaining. I might have called it righteous indignation, but God did not agree (Jn 6:61 and Luke 5:30).
Desperate and exhausted, I cried out to God for relief and He seated me at the feet of a godly older woman who spoke His Word into my heart. This began my journey back to Him. I was able to discern lie after lie that I had believed, and yielded them to Him in confession and repentance, accepting His thoughts as truth and discarding mine as deception (Ps 119:130, Is 55:8). One of these lies was the false belief that I had the power and wisdom to take care of myself. Because I believed that God had failed to protect me from hurt in this life I committed my eternity to Him but reserved the right to do whatever I thought was necessary to protect myself until then.
God’s Spirit, though grieved by the sins of my tongue, was no longer a distant stranger (Eph 4:30). And within the pages of His Word, I discovered that He had truly given me everything I needed, including the truth about real tribulation and persecution (Jn 16:1). My offence faded into insignificance.
With a spirit of exultation, I have realized that the Word of my salvation – which had also been the source of my offence – has become the agent by which I was reconciled to Him. The Psalmist described this process in Psalm 107:20 when he wrote of God’s dealings with the rebellious children of Israel.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions. (Ps 107:20)
Since He is a God who never changes, this is my story as well. Repentance has produced reconciliation. The sweet and intimate relationship that I hungered for has been, and is being, restored. I am learning to say with Paul that “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” so that I may “know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:8a and 10a). This is my story. It can be your story.