Obstacles to Worship | #10 – Disappointment with God
We often hear of the sovereignty of God, but it can be a rather nebulous concept, especially to our modern western ears. We don’t have too many sovereign bodies in our culture. Our government is formed with checks and balances in order to keep any one person from holding absolute power. North Korea would be the closest we could come to what it would look like, and that is a frightening example, given that their sovereign leader is a wicked despot, and not the good, loving, merciful and gracious God who holds absolute reign over us.
However, even considering God’s beneficent qualities, there are times His sovereignty can be a bit frightening, too. His ways are not our ways. He is not controllable. He colors outside our lines and blows the sides off of our boxes. One of the greatest questions that believers and non-believers alike struggle with is what to do with a God who doesn’t behave as we like. For the believer this discomfort and disappointment can impinge on our ability to worship.
Some of our difficulty in worship when God’s sovereignty runs afoul of our own comes from our culture’s idolatrous worship of comfort and ease. It seeps into our churches, as well. We want convenience, for things to run smoothly, and we cherish gratifications as instantly as we can manage. Hitting too many traffic lights on the way into work can throw the mood into a tailspin. We look to God to be the Great Concierge in the Sky, smoothing out the way for us, making it obstacle-free, or kicking those obstructions out of the way quickly so we can get on with our agenda. We aren’t pleased when He doesn’t comply, it confuses us. It makes us question, “Who IS He anyway?” That’s actually a good question to ask, because most likely we’re getting Him wrong.
Our cultural mindset about God and His ways is rooted in ignorance of what the Bible reveals. As we read of His dealings with His dearly loved people we see that He meets them in the midst of their trials as often as He knocks the obstacles down. If we never had a trial, we would never know how much we need Him as Savior, Deliverer, and Mighty God. He holds out promises to “give” things to His people, but does not deprive them of the process of struggle to obtain those promises. We see Israel promised the land of Canaan, but they had to fight for it inch by inch. We see David anointed as king, but having to wait, even being a hunted fugitive for many years before getting the crown. Through these His people learned to depend on Him, look to Him for power, and see Him display His faithfulness to His word.
As we read the psalms David wrote while on the run, we can see that the trials honed David’s worship, rather than derailing it. Like Job, who had no visible, tangible reasons to worship when all He had was taken from him, David clung to God in faith—faith is the opposite of sight. And without faith it is impossible to please God; it is impossible to worship Him.
When we have everything we desire, and all the obstacles fall down before us, there is no need for faith. When the obstacles fall quickly as we call out to God, there is generally need for small faith. But when we must persevere through long trials, deep sorrow, unrelenting disappointment and still cling to God, it displays a great faith that we have an even greater God. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.” That is great faith!
It is approaching two decades ago that I went through an extremely difficult physical trial. Not only was I quite ill, but the side effects from the medication were incapacitating. There were times when all I could pray was, “I trust You. I trust You. I trust You…” over and over. The enemy would hiss, “What if this goes on forever?” but I would pray to the Lord, “I trust You. I trust You. I trust You.” Many years later in one of my annual retreats the Lord showed me that this simple prayer, “I trust You,” uttered in the midst of trial, is the purest form of worship we can offer Him, because it does not look at circumstances at all, it only looks to His character, His faithfulness, and His goodness through eyes of faith.
When we are met with difficulties that threaten to derail our worship because we are disappointed or angry with God (some will find it difficult to recognize or admit this anger), it is helpful to stop and consider:
• Does our disappointment reveal a stubborn insistence on our way over His?
• Are we no longer willing to say, “Thy will be done, not mine?”
• Are we fearful about entrusting something (or someone) to God, and He is touching us in that area to warn us about idolatry?
• Have we become too independent in our ways, giving only a glancing nod in His direction for approval and charging ahead, rather than carefully seeking His agenda?
• Have we become entitled, or spoiled by His blessings? Are we seeking Him only for His hand and disregarding His heart?
Rather than allowing our disappointment with God’s ways to derail our worship, we should seek to have it refine our worship through a deepened faith, and fresh revelation of who God is. It is helpful to keep these things in mind:
• We need to remember that by example and direct wording the Bible never promises freedom from trouble, in fact, quite the opposite.
• God meets us in the midst of trouble and reveals Himself there. We should be asking Him, “What are You teaching me about Yourself?”
• God reveals things about ourselves in these times, as well. Under the fire of our trial the impurities rise to the surface. If we are wise we will humble ourselves and deal with the instead of resisting. The questions above can be helpful.
• Our trials are not necessarily obstacles to be quickly overcome. We need to seek the Lord in the midst of them in order to see how much energy we need to be expending in ridding ourselves of the trial, and how much we need to put into remaining in a state of yieldedness to His sovereign will.
Remember, we get to determine whether our struggles drive us from God or draws us closer to Him, with an accompanying sweetness of worship only a person of faith can experience.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries