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David Powlison answers (correctly, in my view):

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26 thoughts on “Does God Get Disappointed in Believers When We Disobey?”

  1. Dweb says:

    If aggrieved and disappointed are synonyms then Powlison is right on…otherwise his long explanation contradicts the short explanation. Equally troubling is his logic when he states that God would be less than a father if he didn’t reflect fatherly emotions like we do. I may have misheard him on this, if so, apologies.
    To me, disappointed and aggrieved are VERY different. Disappointed implies unmet expectations whereas aggrieved conveys hurt over someone settling for less than God’s best. To paraphrase Lewis “…like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in the slum because he can’t imagine what is being offered by a holiday at sea, we are far to easily pleased.” God is not shocked that we don’t choose His best (Psalm 103:14-15), but because he knows how satisfied we would be if we followed His ways, he is certainly aggrieved when we disobey.

  2. Ken says:

    I simply cannot get my head around the whole concept of God being disappointed. It’s like talking about God “deciding” to do something. Anger, sadness, being aggrieved, hurt, yes, but disappointment? Disappointment has to do with unmet expectations and I can’t get my head around God expecting better from me if He is omniscient. He commands better of me. It’s right up there with the origin of evil in heaven and an eternal all wise, unchanging, unchangeable Being. This doesn’t make me fatalistic. It’s the sound of one hand clapping. I just don’t go there.

    1. DS says:

      i think you trying to wrap you head around it is that you are trying to define in a linear timeline or temporal understanding of disappointment…. i.e.— he has expectations, they go unmet, then he is disappointed….however if you think of it in a more eternal aspect of the fall of man, Jesus’ sacrificial atonement and our justification happened, is happening and will happen, God’s eternal plan creation,fall, redemption, glorification in an eternal aspect all happened “at once” because eternally the linear aspect of time is non-existent.

      1. Ken says:

        Nice try.

  3. Brent Hobbs says:

    To Dweb and Ken, I disagree that “disappointed” can only describe someone who’s expectations aren’t met. It can also describe someone who had hoped for something better and not seen that come to pass, regardless of how likely or unlikely the event might be.

    I was disappointed when Apple didn’t announce a 64GB iPhone for Verizon. Knew it wasn’t likely, yet had still hoped for it.

    I think disappointed is a perfectly good way to describe God when he might have wished for a better outcome in any particular situation.

    1. Dweb says:

      Brent, I do believe that you or I can be “disappointed” with God, each other, even Apple. I think God’s foreknowledge eliminates that possibility within my understanding of the definition of disappointed. That said, the more important question might be how do we as believers respond to our brothers and sisters when they have grieved or “disappointed” God?

      1. Kyle Mullaney says:

        I think it is possible because God longs for us to live holy lives as the blood of Christ his life death resurrection is sufficient power for our ability. We dishonor that truth when we disobey. Am I disappointed when my daughter acts out in the restaurant. ABSOLUTELY! Do I know that is is going to? Yes, without a doubt (but not by foreknowledge). Is my disappointment justified? Have I raised her up to “misbehave” in public? Not well enough so I stand to bare the blame for that. Yet God has given us infinitely more grace than is need to cover and “prevent” sin. His disappointment is justified.

        That must lead us to ask the question what is the nature of his disappointment. I believe this will clear up the issue of whether or not He “can be” disappointed but please give me your comments. As said above disappointment is rooted in unmet expectations. To say that His foreknowledge would preclude his from feeling this because he does not know what will happen does not negate the expectation that we live live of holiness. As Brent said expectations can be held though there is no possible way they could be fulfilled the result is STRONG disappointment. That does not negate the expectation. Yet all the more god could honestly expect us to live lives of holiness, it is fully accomplished in Christ. God rightly, expects it and we fail thus “God is patient” with us. We are not given a greater burden than we can bear, thus, through Christ, we are expected to bare that burden. The disappointment is rooted in His expectation that we carry our crosses. He has supplied the grace to “cause” us to walk in His ways and yet in our hearts we do not cherish Him and we sin. Then comes our chastening as a Father disciplines his son.

        Disappointment, not in the unknown but in failure to meet, “meetable” expectations.

  4. Dane says:

    This is outstanding. Thanks Justin.

  5. Daryl Little says:

    I would agree that the use of the term “disappointed” is problematic, but other than that I really appreciated what was said.

    But DS, Jesus sacrificial atonement is not now happening, nor is creation and the fall. Those things happened. Even Hebrews talks about the Jesus sacrifice as a once for all event, never to be repeated.
    There’s a reasons that Jesus said He is coming soon, and not coming and coming and coming and coming…


    How is having expectations and hoping for something better, not exactly the same thing?

    1. Leon says:

      Having expectations implies, at least in the mind of the one having those expectations, a higher probability of the desired outcome actually coming to pass. Hoping for something better but knowing that it will most likely not come to pass is different.

      My mother always hoped that my older brother would stop rebelling, running away and hurting us, his family. Based on his character and proven by time, that was probably not going to happen. She hoped but was disappointed.

      LIkewise, and perhaps even more so due to His omniscience, God is dissapointed when he yearns for his children to obey and they do not.

  6. bill crawford says:

    As believers in total depravity, that everything we do is tainted by sin, how do we avoid concluding that God is perpetually disappointed / aggrieved / ticked off at us? Do we ever do anything that lives up to God’s standard so that he would not be disappointed? And if we say everything is under the blood of Christ, then how can God be disappointed? (I know he is – it just sends me into a downward spiral as even my righteous deeds are polluted.)

    1. Joe M says:

      If someone or someones could help bill with his question that would be great as I was having the same concerns/questions. How do Christians live in the Freedom that Christ provides without being too concerned with themselves and their sin? If it is even possible to be too concerned about ones sins. Any help?

    2. Leon says:

      I think that we can counsel until Christ arrives. But the best “balance” is found in scriptures like Romans 7:24-8:1 (really the whole book) or the Beatitudes. When we focus on our depravity and emptiness towards God it forces us to look towards our savior and remember the glorious Gospel that we as believers have already believed and must continue to remember.

      In the N.T. epistles, when bringing correction to those in sin, Paul constantly reminds them first of the Gospel and their identity in Christ then he brings in correction.

      And so our attitude as Christians is always “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…”

      I believe a right view of ourselves and of God’s grace and love towards us will bring you up out of your “downward spiral” and into God’s glorious joy.

      You must simply put your faith repeatedly in Christ and His Gospel and know that sanctification is painfully slow but it DOES progress (Romans 8).

      Hope this helps you my brothers.

    3. Will says:

      I am in agreement with everything Leon said but wanted to add. :)

      Bill, I understand where you are coming from with feeling crushed by your sin but I hope that you will see the flashlight that is the biblical doctrine of total depravity. The doctrine of total depravity definitely shows us the magnitude of our sins and impure motives in everything we do, but it does that not to leave us there spiraling down as you said but instead to lead us to Christ (both our need for Him and how glorious He is).

      If you can see the diagram that I drew in MS Paint 5 seconds ago it is meant to show our growing awareness of our sinfulness and God’s Holiness. The end result is me realizing that, as you said, “even my righteous deeds are polluted” and God’s standard is perfection. This growing understanding of God and myself makes me see the Gospel as more valuable and more awe inspiring, which is exactly what God wants.

      When ALL we feel is the weight of our sin, we are only believing half of the truth. We don’t have to put ourselves on the cross to suffer because Christ already has and it was sufficient. We should feel a brokenness over our sin but it should always be accompanied with a rising of faith and encouragement from what Christ has done on our behalf. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.

  7. Chris McGarvey says:

    I’d love to hear you, Justin, or David Powlison address the question (built on the theological foundation represented in this video), “Should I ever tell my child that I am disappointed in him?” And if so, how and how not to do so.

  8. Barry says:

    Thank you again for posting these helpful vids from CCEF~

  9. Joe M says:

    Thanks for posting these great vids! High quality and very clear and engaging theology! You guys at CCEF are top notch!

  10. Mason says:


    I think Charles Leiter’s book Justification and Regeneration would be a real help. You can find it at Monergism’s book store.


  11. Kelsey says:

    Mr. Powlison’s response has really been bothering me to be honest. It is different from responses I have been told in the past, things like “God is never disappointed in you, he sees you as he sees Jesus”
    I am starting to see some theological flaws with that statement, but I am still confused.

    My question is similar to one above. If God is disappointed with my sin, and pretty much everything I do in my fallen condition has some sin motives, is it possible to please God? I feel like this puts living out our faith into a cycle where we are constantly trying to please God, but inevitably fail.

    1. Kyle Mullaney says:

      At that point you are broken hearted and contrite in spirit. We take joy from the fact that Christ pleases God. Our failings are many but Christ’s grace is super-hyper abundant (that is paul’s word). It is infinitely greater than our sin. Therefore, in our deep brokenness we can have joy because Christ is sufficient. If you follow a cycle of continually trying to please him you will continually fail. Stop trying to please him. Realize you cannot and it is Christ alone who can. Ask him to stand in your place fight the battle because you cannot. That is humility. That is brokenness. Christ wants a broken and contrite heart and God gives grace to the humble. If we could maintain that brokenness constantly. Be aware of it at every moment in every discussion at every point at which something or someone in this world seeks to unframe our hearts from it we would be perfectly humble perfectly aware of our smallness before God. We must fight for this brokenness and God gives it.

      1. Jeff Bruce says:

        Hi Kyle,

        I certainly agree that we should be continually mindful of our great need for God, and continually resting in the sufficiency of Christ’s death and resurrection. However, a desire to please God seems like a perfectly biblical desire; something to be cultivated rather than suppressed.

        2 Corinthians 5:9-10 – 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

        J.C. Ryle says it better than I can;

        “Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which no man feels by nature – which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted – but which some believers feel so much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called ‘zealous’ men…”


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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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