Does God get disappointed with us when we make mistakes and does it matter? - Image courtesy of vladdythephotogeek (

Does God get disappointed with us when we make mistakes and does it matter? – Image courtesy of vladdythephotogeek (

A friend of mine who was raised in a fundamentalist home told me a disturbing story recently. One Sunday morning, the youth pastor at her Southern Baptist Church passed out three-inch galvanized nails to all the students in his care. He instructed them to keep these in their pockets at all times. Whenever they had an impure thought or disrespected their parents or sinned in any way, he told them to place their hand into their pockets and poke the nail into their finger.

“That way you’ll be reminded of the pain your causing God,” he said, “and you’ll know how disappointed He is with you in that moment.”

The spine-tingling actions of this minister raise an important question: does God get disappointed with us?

The two elements that comprise disappointment are surprise and frustration. Accepting the first—that God is surprised with our most tragic failures—tests our belief in His sovereignty. God knows the events that will unfold tomorrow, and they never take Him off guard. Additionally, He created our “inmost being” (Ps 139:13) and knows our hearts better than we do. We cannot take God by surprise.

But what about the frustration element of disappointment? Is God angry or frustrated with us? The theological roots of this belief run deep.

Jonathan Edwards expressed this view in his now famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” when he said that God “abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire.”

The view is echoed by modern day fundamentalists like super-pastor Mark Driscoll who preached a sermon in which he shouted at his congregation: “God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you.”

Is this the God we seek to serve? One who is sick of us and frustrated by us?

Such a belief overlooks a critical aspect of the Christian gospel—namely, the cross of Christ. All of God’s anger, wrath, and yes, frustration was emptied out on Christ in that moment. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” God has no wrath left for us because He gave it all to Jesus.

God’s primary emotion toward us today and each day is love, and we receive it knowing we have done nothing to deserve it. There is nothing we can do today to make Him love us more, and nothing we might devise to make Him love us less. He simply loves us because He loves us. That’s just who He is. And God does not dangle His love on conditional strings like a divine marionette.

As the late Brennan Manning described God in his classic book The Ragamuffin Gospel,

“He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course, this almost too incredible for us to accept.”

Too incredible indeed. Which is why many Christian today have created a God who seethes at our failings and falters, blunders and mishaps. A God who peers over our shoulders clicking His tongue and whispering, “You’re going to pay for that.” A God who is irritable and rigid—perhaps resembling our earthly fathers.

But this is not the God of the Gospel. That God is capable of laughing at our mistakes, smiling when we bumble down the wrong path, and overlooking our misguided attempts to live the “good life” and follow Him well.

As I have discovered what G.K. Chesterton called “the furious love of God,” I’ve accepted that God is never disappointed with us. But I think God may often get disappointed for us. He wants the best for us—lives of joy and abundance and fulfillment—but He recognizes that we often choose paths that lead us away from those gifts.

My friend Tony cheated on his wife a few years ago, and as result, he ruined his marriage. Today, Tony harbors a lot of guilt. “Do you think God is disappointed with me?” he asked recently. I told him I didn’t think so, but I wondered if God was disappointed for him. “Oh, Tony, I wanted you to have a healthy marriage and a loving, stable home for your children,” God may have thought. “I am disappointed for you because, like you, I wanted something better. But I’m walking with you even still.” This is the response of a loving, empathetic God whose mercies are new each morning.

Today we remember that Jesus came for the spiritually weak, for broken people who live imperfect lives, for those who don’t have it all together, for the serial failures and habitual mess-ups.

If that sounds like you, be liberated today.

God is not disappointed with you.


  1. I think we would agree that your opening anecdote is, well, disappointing.

    I think the rest of this article misses Biblical warnings like Eph 4:30, Mark 3:5 and Rom 13:4. I bring it up only to offer a reminder that while God’s grace and love are utterly sufficient for all our sin, our attitude toward that gift cannot be to take it for granted. The warnings of the NT are plain enough that those who take God’s grace for granted are prolly doing it wrong.

    • But Frank, Mark 4:3 is pre-New Covenant relationship between God and man, Romans 13:4 is about God graciously providing order in a fallen world, and the use of “grieve” in Ephesians 4:30 does not clearly equate to disappointment (it seems to me to touch on a spiritual reality that is difficult to understand with finite minds). Of course, I could he completely wrong and you completely right, btu I think I got a lot of this correctly understood.


  2. That difference between “disappointed with” and “disappointed for” is so important Jonathan. Thanks for stating that so clearly.

    When one reads the Bible as a whole, certain conclusions are clear: God does not condemn us for our actions (Romans 8:1), and all forgiveness we need has already been delivered to us, past tense (Colossians 2:13). He loves us the same way he loves his Son, eternally and without reservation, since he’s already seated us with him in the heavenly realms(Ephesians 2:6). I don’t know how anyone can read the Bible and think God is ever displeased with his own.


    P.S. I wrote a while back on the folly of leveling accusations against God’s children:

  3. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

    I have often translated that as: “The way of Jesus is not easy, but Jesus is easy on us.”

    Salvation is so much more than in versus out, but of participating in a way of living that, day by day, moves us further into the world (kingdom) God envisioned. He is patient with us. First Corinthians 13 is fine to read a weddings, but better to read at our baptisms.

    • Jonathan Merritt

      Just came up with it. The definition was “the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest.”

      Dissatisfaction is what I called frustration. Failure of expectations is what I called surprise.

  4. Hi, Jonathan — I like some of what you’re saying, the gist, yet I wonder if something’s lacking. Jesus was exasperated w/ the disciples’ lack of faith several times. Seated in glory, He doesn’t experience “surprise.” But frustration? I wonder. Grieved, yes He can be; this we know (Eph 4:30). God may be grieved at our behavior. Yet He’s still for us, and won’t leave us or forsake us for our errors. His grace is there to help us to not stay stuck in them, and never to condemn us for them.

    God can certainly be grieved at our behavior. Not disappointed by your definition, but still, unhappy w/ what we’ve done. But since He’s still for us and He’s committed to us and is going to bring to completion the good work He began and will never give up on us and is eager to forgive, we have lots of reason to hope.

    To me, that seems important to add, the grief bit. What do you think?

    • Jonathan Merritt

      Thanks for the comment. On the Jesus example, I would ask, does a post-cross reality matter. I think so.

      And grieving the Spirit is a matter of interpretation. On the face, sadness and disappointment aren’t the same emotion. And then we are back at the same question. If we grieve the Spirit, is the Spirit sad with us or sad for us…

      • That post cross aspect is so important, Jonathan. After all, the New Covenant relationship with all its grace did not begin until Calvary.

  5. Jonathan Woodlief

    Do you know the context of the Driscoll sermon? Would it matter who the ‘you’ is? Thanks for your writing and thoughtfulness.

  6. Brandon G. Smith

    I love this article. I really do. The “disappointed for” as opposed to “disappointed in” example clears up a lot for me. Even though, as on open theist, I do believe that God can experience a certain amount of “surprise.”

  7. I believe and agree that we fail to focus on or even understand just how great and awesome God’s love is for us. I also believe that I love my children, but I can still be disappointed by them. That doesn’t mean I love them less or that they are no longer my children. Also, Exodus 4:14 says “and the anger of The Lord was kindled against Moses…” This was because he kept arguing with God’s plan and refused to believe he was capable of doing what God wanted. I believe God loves me and nothing I can do can make Him love me more or less, but I also believe that He is disappointed when I am not living the victorious life He wants me to live.

    • Jonathan Merritt

      One big difference with an earthy parent and a heavenly parent is Jesus. When you are disappointed with your children you can’t just place that disappointment on another, as God does with Jesus. Additionally, your children fail to meet your expectations, but if we accept that God knows you better than you know yourself, we have to also accept that doesn’t happen with God.

  8. RE: emptying out God’s wrath: You seem to be saying that God has two responses: wrath & love. Now that the wrath is exhausted, all we have is love. There are many reasons to object, but probably the best is that it isn’t how God is in the New Testament. I’d love to hear your explanation for God striking down Anananias and Saphira…

    Of course God ‘gets disappointed with us’ – how can anyone read Genesis’ account of the flood and think otherwise (God regretted having made them!)? The idea that our actions don’t matter to God because God ‘sees our inmost being’ is nonsense – if we lack the capacity to understand how God might be loving while also upset says more about the inflexibility of our imaginations than anything else. It is a destructive pattern of thought to say that God does not respond to us. Jesus’ life death and resurrection is God’s response to us. It is likewise destructive to imagine a God incapable of disappointment with us – there are points in the gospels where Jesus is clearly reacting w/ emotion to the disciples. It seems twisted to allow our tendentious elaborations of a doctrine of ‘sovereignty’ to override the clear instantiation of God in our midst.

  9. Michael Evans

    Faithless Israel Called to Repentance

    6 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore?

    7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

    I also believe the love of God never changes. Many of your thoughts about God seem however to be more centralized in early Hellenistic philosophy than in Scripture. Read some of Aristotle’s work. You and Calvin and others mirror his thoughts of God, he had those thoughts without the Bible.

  10. I have been saved for going in 3 years. I Love learning and searching what Gods word says. I lived in a way where I did everything based on not disappointing God. I didn’t realize I was living under the law and not under Grace where God wanted me to be. The more God shows me that he is not disappointed in me the more I realize how much chain breaking, overflowing Grace he has for me. Thank you for clarifying the two “disappointments” I really need to be educated on that! -maria

  11. Thanks so much for this. I was looking for articles about God’s disappointment in us and this article really helped. I struggle both with my own disappointment in myself for my failures and character flaws, and I also struggle with knowing that my husband is often disappointed in me and then assume that must mean that God is also disappointed in me (Im in recovery for codependency haha). But I just wanted to say that you because I really need to hear other voices than my husbands, my own, and the enemy’s in my ear all the time. I still have a hard time believing that God loves me despite my many failures, but Im trying to say to the Lord, “I believe, help thou my unbelief”. Thanks again. :)

  1. […] This thought-provoking post by Jonathan Merritt (thanks to Scot McKnight’s blog) makes me wonder whether I’ve used language about “disappointing” God in the past. I probably have. But I confess that it’s a sloppy word that probably can’t apply to God without cutting God down to human size. As Merritt writes: […]