When you start talking to strangers about God and they respond, something happens. They start to slow down and relax. They feel more open to sharing about how they feel about God or the idea of who they think God is. They’ll tell you reasons why they stopped believing in God. Sometimes they will tell about how God or God’s people have disappointed them. Some of the stories will make you wince. If you really boil down most of the stories you hear from strangers in these instances, there is a common thread. The idea that God didn’t do what they wanted Him to do. That’s a hard thing to overcome when you don’t know God. But you very often don’t get what you want from God. How do you help someone understand that God is good when they feel like He let them down?
People who don’t know God’s word love to try and imagine for themselves who God is. What is He like? What does He care about? They will mingle their questions in with who someone told them God was. He’s supposed to be nice. Doesn’t that mean God wants us to be happy?
You Really Don’t Want To Get What You Want From God
When we pray for things, we are usually quite earnest in asking. Prayers from those who don’t really know God will always come from desperation. A heart that is not in tuned to God will run out of everything they use in place of God to find strength and comfort before going to Him. That is why their prayers, their pleas, mean so much to them. They are simply out of options. The trouble is, those of us who do know God know that He alone knows exactly what outcome is needed, regardless of how we feel about it.
The unbelieving pray for money. They pray for the repairing of relationships that need to go. They pray for someone to live, to spare someone’s life when God needs to call them home. These pleas come with a lack of understanding. In an unbeliever’s mind, God is a kind of Santa Claus who grants wishes. When desperate 11th hour prayers collide with the reality of a Sovereign LORD who works things out for His glory alone and not for the sake of our emotions, things get tense. This is souring to the heart who doesn’t understand who they are dealing with.
Does God care about our needs, the things that break our heart or negatively impact our lives? Of course He does. More than we can ever know. But He doesn’t go about cleaning up our messes and fixing our disasters for the sake of us feeling better like He is mom cleaning up our boo-boos and putting on a bandaid. But try explaining that to the broken heart standing in front of you pouring their heart out. If we are honest, we even have a hard time with this one.
We need to reconcile our prayer life with the truth; in all honesty, we don’t even know what to ask for. Our perception of things is so limited compared to God’s. We think we know the best way He should handle things because it usually suits our needs. There are hard things in this life and God has His hand in it all. While there are times in our lives where God’s direction is disappointing to us, He works things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to HIS purpose (Romans 8:28). We don’t always know what’s for our good. We just know what will make us feel better. That is not the same thing (Luke 11:11). Many can think back on a few desperate prayers in their day and thank God they didn’t what they asked for. You can always get what you want from God because some of things we think we need are not good for us. It is in the rear view mirror of life that we can see more clearly.
Encouraging Those Who Have Been Disappointed By God
If you are able, pray with your new friend right then and there. They have opened themselves up, they are probably going to be willing. If not, tell them you will be praying for God to reveal Himself to them. Pray for God to comfort them in their disappointment and ask God to bring some truth to light in the situation they are
stuck in. Prayer does a lot of things for everyone, including unbelievers. It opens them up to the possibilities of communication to God. It also teaches them how to pray by listening to you.
Making an impact for the gospel also includes getting your hands dirty for the sake of the unbeliever. Souls are at stake. Don’t be afraid to withstand some rough language and hard cases to bring a lost soul to the only thing that matters; Jesus.