For nearly the last 70 years in the Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown has endured frustration at the hands of his friend Lucy. Every Autumn, she offers to let him kick her football, but at the last moment as he charges in, she swoops the football away and he ends up falling flat on his back.
This becomes an annual ritual of torture where Lucy provides all kinds of assurances that this time she will finally allow him to kick it. Sometimes Charlie falls for it, but with every passing year, he becomes less willing and more cynical.
Early on in September 1961, after only 10 years of this humiliating experience, Lucy had already encapsulated the overall feeling that would pervade the comic strip in years to come.
As Lucy places the ball in position, Charlie muses to himself “She must think I’m a complete fool. Every year she pulls the same trick on me. Well, this year it’s not going to work. This year I’m not going to be fooled.”
Lucy assures him “You thought I was going to pull the ball away didn’t you? Why Charlie Brown, I’m ashamed of you. I’m also insulted. Don’t you trust anyone anymore? Has your mind become so darkened with mistrust that you’ve lost your ability to believe in people?”
Spurred on by her words of encouragement, Charlie steels himself and charges in again, only for Lucy to pull the ball away at the last second, leaving Charlie once again flat on his back.
Lucy adds her final comment: “Isn’t it better this way Charlie Brown? Isn’t it better to trust people?”
How to trust God when it feels like He’s let you down again
This cycle of crushed hope, betrayal, distrust and cynicism can sometimes feel like a metaphor for our relationship with God when we’ve experienced one disappointment after another in life or we’ve been in a long-term wilderness.
Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
How can we continue to trust God when it feels as if he has let you down once again? How do we trust when we begin to get our hopes up once again and believe in his ability to change our circumstances, and then our hope is deferred and we’re met with disappointment?
How do we avoid becoming cynical, bitter and distrustful of God’s goodness and character?
If you’re asking these questions, then read on. Here are 4 things you can do to help you during these times.
1. BE THANKFUL IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES AND KEEP PRAISING GOD
If we have encountered bitter disappointments in life where we begin to question God’s goodness, then praising or thanking God may be the last thing we want to do. It can seem completely contrary to our situation.
However, there are good reasons to still worship God even when you don’t feel like it. When we worship God, this helps us to take our eyes off our own situation and onto God.
But another thing it does is that when we worship, we agree with the truths of the Bible and speak out words in faith.
When we speak out words of thankfulness or blessing in faith, we affirm God’s truth and power and internalise the truths of scripture as well.
It also has the effect of boosting our own faith as well and gives us a different perspective of the situation from God’s point of view.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 says:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Consciously choosing to be thankful and praise God in every circumstance – including our difficult circumstances – has the effect of boosting our own faith. As we assent to the truths of scripture, this helps us to focus on his character and his goodness and to avoid becoming cynical about life.
2. KEEP YOUR EYES FIXED ON JESUS
The Good News Bible translation of Hebrews 12:2 says:
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.”
With our own eyes, we have a tendency to look only at the visible world around and what is humanly possible.
When we keep our eyes fixed only on our own situation, we end up doing what the Philosopher did in the book of Ecclesiastes. Often, he spoke words of despair and frustration, perceiving that life was futile and meaningless.
He was seeing things only from “under the sun”, which essentially means from a human perspective.”
When you look within or look at the world around you, it’s very easy to become cynical and lose hope.
In Ecclesiastes however, the Philosopher would occasionally have a paradigm shift and see things from “above the sun”.
Likewise, when we fix our eyes on God instead, we begin to see things from “above the sun” – i.e., from a heavenly perspective or God’s point of view.
When we shift our eyes off ourselves, we are able to look beyond our own circumstances.
I’ve written an article here on how keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus can help us to trust him in difficult circumstances.
3. REMEMBER THAT WE CAN’T ALWAYS SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
There are many times in our lives when we feel like we’re going in circles.
How do we continue to trust God in dark times when it seems like every time we begin to get our hopes up once again and believe in his ability to change our circumstances, these hopes are dashed and we’re met with disappointment? It seems like we’ve allowed ourselves to be gullible enough to fall for the same old trick but are then let down.
If you’ve ever tried solving the Rubik’s Cube, you might know that there are times when you have to move things out of order even when you’re close to getting all six sides. To someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing, you could seem to be doing the exact opposite of what you should be doing. However, you know how all the pieces are going to fit.
God can often work in a similar way in our own lives. If you feel like you’re taking one step forwards and then three steps back, remember that God sees the bigger picture. He is the creator of the universe with a master plan.
I’ve written more about how the Rubik’s Cube can help us trust God here.
4. ASK GOD TO HELP YOU REINTERPRET YOUR LIFE
When you’re a child, it’s easy to misinterpret what your parents are doing. That’s because you can only see things from a limited perspective. You could easily conclude your parents don’t love you because you’re unable to see the bigger picture.
It’s the same with God. When He withholds things because of the harm, we can think He is being overly strict or withholding blessings.
When we wrongly interpret evidence, we can come to the wrong conclusion. This can be disastrous for relationships, particularly our relationship with God. It can drive a wedge of mistrust. Everything you view through those spectacles of mistrust causes you to see things in the wrong way and only appears to confirm your suspicions.
If we have the wrong interpretation of life, this can impact the way we view our life or see God. We can then begin to project our feelings of resentment onto Him.
It is important to interpret our lives through God’s eyes and not our own. I’ve written in depth about this more here.
It is not easy to keep trusting God in difficult times, especially when we feel disappointed by Him. But keeping these things in mind can help us shift our eyes off ourselves and our own situation. It can help us to gain a proper perspective so that we can come to Him with open hearts once again and leave our mistrust and cynicism at His feet.
We can be sure that, unlike Lucy and Charlie Brown, God will not suddenly pull the ball away from us at the last minute and allow us to be hurt. However, if we should fall, He is there to catch us and waits with open arms.
Have you been disappointed in life? How has it affected your trust in God? What have you done to gain the right perspective again?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.