I received a great question and comment to last week’s post. I thought it was important to share here as it shows how our theology plays out in our everyday lives (i.e. how our view of God affects how we treat others). Please continue to send in your thoughts to this discussion in the comments below.
Question from Reader
I enjoyed your blog entry this week. It was an excellent reminder of how love should always be our first priority rather than control. I stumbled, however, over your question, “Do they feel your love even in their disobedience or are they aware of your displeasure?“.
I have been very aware of the Lord’s love and affirmation for me and also had a few rare times when I felt his frustration and disappointment when I failed to obey. His love was in those moments too. You may not agree, but I do think because the Lord is passionate, we can feel his displeasure– not his judgment, condemnation or rejection, but certainly his hurt and disappointment.
And there’s a precedent for that in the Word– his expressions of love and longing and exasperation for his wayward people in Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah. Even in the gospels when Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” There are many strongly emotional statements Jesus made to Peter, to his disciples, to the Pharisees; he was a man of deep love, deep feeling and strong words, and people felt his displeasure, at times.
Are You Suggesting a Something Different?
I stumbled over your question because I find it impossible to hide my disappointment and frustration from my children sometimes, however, I tell them often through word and action, that my love for them isn’t dependent on their decisions. So I would have to say, as a mother, my children feel my love for them AND my disappointment. I’m not sure I will ever be able to NOT reveal my displeasure when they are hateful, reckless, disrespectful, or dishonest; they are very aware of my emotional state all the time. But I do know I will always communicate my affection and love. Perhaps that shows the limits of my maturity? I think the only way for them to not be aware of my feelings is for me to not feel them. Is that possible? Are you suggesting a completely different paradigm that includes no significant negative emotions?
Thank you for your question and for allowing me to see the implications for parenting. I know it is hard to not show disappointment for when our kids make the same mistakes over and over again. The other day my oldest shut the the youngest’s fingers in a door we have told her over and over not to shut. These are the times I find it hardest not to show my disappointment when it hurts her sister.
I don’t know if I have a set answer to your question but I will throw out some thoughts and see if they congeal into anything logical.
Can God Be Disappointed in Us?
1. All of God’s anger of sin has been placed on the cross. Therefore any anger He has about our sin is never directed on us. I have no doubt He feels sadness that we chose to turn from His love, but His heart is to always redeem and restore double portion for what was lost. Therefore joy and hope are always present.
2. In the Old Testament God’s jealous love is often mistaken for anger. The story of Hosea is a prime example. In chapter 2 God takes everything away from the wayward wife. While we view this as she is getting what she deserves, God is really blocking her path from the thing taking her away from Him. Once removed He starts to woo her to himself. He hopes that where she once called him master she will now call him husband. He upgrades the potential of their relationship instead of punishing her.
Does God unfair? Is He silent? Is He hidden? Why, if God is so hungry for relationship with us, does he seem so distant? Phillip Yancey’s book: Disappointment With God is insightful and deeply personal and points to the odd disparity between our concept of God and the realities of life.
3. I don’t really have an answer for the Pharisees. Jesus obviously spoke harsh words to them. My only reply is His displeasure rose up whenever people were keeping others from knowing Him. In an act of love to one group He had to attack those holding them back.
I will say the Pharisees were not part of the fold at that time. However I am not saying that is a great argument.
Can We Be Disappointed in Our Children?
4. As for parenting I completely understand your point. I am reminded though of our recent difficulties with our oldest. She was getting into everything, making poor decisions, and just not being herself. We eventually came to realize that she was picking up on the atmosphere around her and acting out of it. Once identified my wife attacked the problem differently. It was not necessarily that my oldest wanted to act that way, she didn’t know how fight the battle she was feeling.
Now the real problem has been exposed, the disappointment we had felt was no longer directed at her but instead we felt pity for her. Since God always sees what is truly going on around us, He can have pity on us. “Forgive them Father for they know not what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).
He knows that in our truest self we will make wise decisions because we are a new creation and we have the spirit within us. When we make poor decisions, we are acting out of lies we are believing that we often don’t know are there. I believe He is not disappointed in us for this but his heart aches for us to know the truth that will set us free. This doesn’t excuse our actions, but it does give a window to how God feels about us.
I believe God will never be disappointed with us. He may be saddened by our choices. His heart may ache for us. He may call us to a greater level of living than we are currently walking out. God never loses hope in us. He knows the potential He has put in us and is continually giving us new ways of walking it out. He sees our mistakes and believes we will get it one day.
Can we then be disappointed with our children? I will say that it is not the best way, but I also know I haven’t perfected this. I believe our disappointment does not have life in it for our children to believe in themselves. However, I will concede if disappointment is a potential tool in parenting, it must be greatly overshadowed by our love for our children. Love is to be the motivation for change not the need to live up to expectations.
I just opened the door into my thoughts. I would appreciate feedback whether you agree or not. Let me hear your thoughts.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.