When I signed up to follow him, I assumed there would be a lot more dialogue. The early days were bewildering, but I thought that was because I was like an amateur radio operator. Surely I would soon develop a crystal clear, fibre-optic conversation with him, instead of what often feels like ancient AOL dial-up, with crackling reception.
I’m disappointed by his apparent unwillingness to intervene in the situations I care about the most. It would be so helpful if he would just quietly zap the psychopaths who kill and abuse without conscience. Why doesn’t he rescue trafficked children and blot out terrorists?
I’m disappointed in what Jesus has done – or not done – in me. I’d hoped for transformation, not just mild revision. I was expecting to become a spiritual athlete; able to streak ahead, swatting aside pesky temptations like flies.
So while some might be shocked at my confession, it surely shouldn’t come as a surprise. Plenty have been disappointed in God before me. Jonah was incensed that God could forgive the hated people of Nineveh. So he went overboard, stomped off and booked a cruise. And then he literally went overboard again.
Jeremiah accused the almighty of being a deceiver. Elijah ran for his life, prayed for death and then repeatedly bleated about his disappointment in God.
Then came Jesus, and the disappointment continued. Ask the Pharisees. He wouldn’t dance to their tune. They made loud speeches about divorce, adultery and fasting, hoping in vain to coerce him into agreeing with them. A rich, religious power broker came to Jesus, hoping to grab eternal life without losing his cash. He went away sad and disappointed.
Even after the resurrection, the disciples had to realise that Jesus was not going to fulfil their cherished dreams. Still on the hunt for a Messiah who would scatter the hated Romans, they put in another request: ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6, ESV). But it wasn’t to be. Jesus was working to a much bigger plan.
So my disappointment has been confessed. What now?
One way forward is to distil my expectations from his promises. It’s unfair to blame God for not doing what he has never promised to do.
Allowing Jesus to be who he really is rather than trying to call customer services because he hasn’t fulfilled my false expectations is vital. Being Jesus I anticipated does not make me disappointed with the Jesus who is.
Of course, this doesn’t solve all the issues. There are still genuine questions and disappointments, and perhaps eternity alone will bring a dawning of answers to most of them.
What I will say is this: 40 years on, Jesus is quite unlike what I’ve sometimes wanted him to be, but faith says that he has been all I’ve needed. I need to bring my disappointment, whether it is truly with him or with the Jesus of my imagination, and determine to follow him anyway.
In a season when many were disappointed with Jesus and deserted him because of it, the disciples, perhaps wrestling with their own surfacing fears, made an honest statement when he asked if they were also planning to leave. Perhaps with a shrug of the shoulder and a look of quiet resignation, they said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6:68, ESV).
And that’s not a bad prayer to pray.
Adapted from Jeff’s new book, The Cactus Stabbers (CWR), available now.
Click here to receive your free copy of Premier Christianity magazine.