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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX

Disappointed by God
America and Pakistan are at a significant crossroads in the War on Terror. An American drone strike killed 44 people last March 17; Pakistan has now stopped cooperating with American intelligence. Today’s CNN website reports that this freeze “brings U.S.-Pakistani intelligence cooperation to a new low.” The future of this vital relationship remains to be seen.

When we are disappointed by those we trust, the hurt doesn’t heal easily. Yesterday I stated that “God so often disappoints me, permitting or even causing pain and heartache in my life; nevertheless, I will trust in him.” One reader asked for an example of such disappointment from my personal life. Another wondered if I am “looking for a Santa Claus God who will make your life perfect.” A third commented wisely that we are sometimes disappointed by the Lord “because our will is not perfectly aligned with God’s, and we just can’t see yet” how “the pain of life God allows us to endure can be used for good.” Could we have a more practical and relevant conversation than this?

In citing a personal example of a time when I felt disappointed by God, I think immediately of my father’s death during my senior year of college, 10 days before Christmas. Dad had his first heart attack when I was two years old, and died of a massive coronary 19 years later. I did not believe then and don’t believe now that God caused his death. But he could have prevented it.

The Lord can intervene medically, both in Scripture and in my experience. I have prayed for terminally ill patients and seen God heal them. If the Lord could heal others, why not my father? I am grateful for the ways God has redeemed his death, but still miss him. When his oldest grandson gets married this summer, I will wish he were there.

The second response speaks of a “Santa Claus God.” I had never thought of this as a metaphor for prayer, but find it very illustrative. When I was a young child, I made my list for Santa, a benevolent figure I had never seen but believed because others told me he existed. If I had been good that year, I was assured that I would get what I asked for. If I had been “naughty” (a much more frequent occurrence), all bets were off.

Isn’t this how many of us approach God in prayer? If we are good, paying our religious dues by attending worship, reading the Bible, giving money, and even opening a morning devotional like this one, he will give us what we ask. If he doesn’t we’re disappointed.

What’s wrong with this view of God?

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