As Christians, awareness of our sin leads us to confession and repentance, where we find renewal and restoration freely offered by Jesus.
But sometimes, it feels like we get stuck in a loop and struggle with the same sins over and over. We grow frustrated and disappointed with ourselves, and we wonder if God is just as disappointed as we are.
God delights in His children. Even though we sin, He is full of mercy and quick to forgive, because it pleases Him to do so.
Struggling with the Mirror
All of us who know Jesus have had to confront our sin. So, all of us have graciously received the gift of forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Yet, we still live in these sinful bodies in a broken world. So sin continues to entice us, tempt us, and deceive us, despite our relationship with Jesus.
So we get frustrated.
Paul had a great deal to say about this frustration in Romans 7:
- I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (v 15)
- For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (v 18)
- For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (v 19)
- Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (v 21)
- What a wretched man I am! (v 24)
Most of us can relate to Paul’s frustration with himself. But before we assume that God is disappointed in us as we struggle with sin, let’s see where Paul’s lament leads him—and us:
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (v 25)
How is that for a change of tone! Even though we struggle continuously with sin, we can thank God! How is this possible?
Because, as Paul continues, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1). Jesus has not only overcome the penalty of sin but he has overcome the condemnation that comes from sin. He has freed us from judgment. He has dropped the charges against us.
Two Kinds of Sorrow
So if Jesus has set us free from condemnation, why do we still feel like we’ve disappointed him? In part, it is because we are accustomed to the worldly sorrow that brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10). This is the sorrow of hopelessness and despair.
But because we know Jesus, we know a different kind of sorrow—sorrow that leads to repentance. And how does this sorrow work?
See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. – 2 Corinthians 7:11
When our sorrow comes not from the leading of the Spirit and not from our own self-condemning guilt, we experience a renewal in righteousness and are pronounced innocent.
God Delights in Repentance
There are some people who are content to continue in sin and not give God a second thought. Such people might not think about whether or not they disappoint God.
Which means they are also not reading this article.
But you, reader, are here because of your desire to please God. You are here because you are wrestling with the guilt that prompts you to ask “Can God be disappointed in me?”
It is precisely because you care deeply enough to ask the question that the answer is a resounding, “No!” God is not disappointed in you.
No matter where you have been or what you have done, He is happy that you have come back to Him:
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.Psalm 51:16-17
An empty ritual or a meaningless sacrifice is disappointing to God. But a repentant heart is not.
Jesus illustrated this truth in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
The son had walked away from his father’s house and squandered his wealth and his time. But when circumstances brought him face-to-face with his sin, he returned to his father full of remorse, hoping for enough mercy to be hired as a servant.
What he encountered though, was a father that was so delighted to see his son return, that the man ran to meet the boy and called a feast in his honor!
Not only did the father show no disappointment, but he went to great lengths to express his delight and joy. That is the same way our heavenly Father delights in our repentance and return, and that is the point of Jesus telling this parable.
How Many Times?
Some of us may struggle to relate to the Prodigal Son. He seemed to have one big return and a happily-ever-after ending. But we struggle with the fact that we have to go to God daily to seek forgiveness. So we wonder if He will grow tired of hearing the same prayer over and over.
Scripture assures us that He won’t:
- First, in recognizing our need to seek forgiveness daily, we are being honest about the reality of sin: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8
- Second, as we explored in our piece about doubt, God patiently comes alongside us to help us in our sin: But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. – 1 John 2:1b
- Finally, we serve a God who is unchanging and infinite. He will never run out of love, grace, or mercy: The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8.
Examples from Jesus
At times in his ministry, Jesus seemed to be frustrated with the pace at which his disciples were learning and growing:
- When they couldn’t cast out a demon: “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:9). Then, Jesus healed the boy.
- When they feared the storm on the lake: He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26). Then Jesus told the storm to be still.
- When the people were worried over trivial matters: Jesus said, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30), Still, he continued to lead them, teach them, and provide for them.
These stories show that at every turn, even when we aren’t where we think we ought to be, Jesus closes the gap for us. He doesn’t wait for us to get our act together and then respond. He responds, compassionately and joyfully, because he knows that we need him.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:6-8
And he is never disappointed when we also know that we need him.