Blaming God for Failures in Life

A friend recently shared that her son was not accepted into a Marine Corps officer candidate program. This was a tremendously important goal he had set and he worked hard to qualify. He passed every test including GPA, physical training, psychological evaluations, service projects, congressional recommendations, etc. But at the end of the day the Corps selected older candidates with more life experience.

He was devastated. And now he blames God for not answering his prayers the way he thought God should. My friend said when they now pray as a family their son remains present but does not engage. He questions the core beliefs about God that he was taught from his childhood.

Why does this happen? I cannot speak to this young man’s frame of mind, for I do not know him well. So the following observations are general.

If we blame God for our lives not going in some direction we desire, are we not declaring ourselves wiser than God? We seem to know for certain what we need and how things will turn out if only we get the job/marry the girl/are accepted into the program of our choice. When it doesn’t happen, bitterness ensues because God wasn’t on board with our plans: “There’s no good reason why He should not have given me what I wanted.” Except there may have been a very good reason that we just can’t see from our limited vantage point.

Which leads to a second observation: We often assume that our desire has a place in God’s will. But Scripture is full of situations where man’s will and God’s will did not coincide no matter how sensible man’s idea may have seemed. Abraham pleaded that Ishmael become heir of the promise (Gn 17:18). Not God’s will. Moses wanted to go into Canaan (Dt 3:23-29). Not God’s will. David wanted to build the temple (1 Chr 22:7-10). You guessed it … not God’s will. God has absolute authority and an overall plan for mankind that we can only glimpse when He cracks the door. How utterly pompous of us to think that our way or plan should have trumped God’s! What do we know?!

This leads to a third observation: We assume in our disappointment that God cannot or will not work out something better for us in the future. Sometimes we set our sights way too low, and we are distraught when our great plan fizzles. But it may be that God has something far greater in mind for us than we can imagine. We’ve all read stories like Abraham Lincoln’s, where his failure to win a senate seat actually opened the door for the presidency. Entrepreneurial busts, scientific failures, manuscript rejections are often the precursors of greater things to come. We must not judge God in the swoon of momentary setback.

Which leads to a fourth observation: A significant part of personal growth is learning to accept failure. This means taking responsibility for ourselves, accepting that the best we can do sometimes isn’t good enough (or that the free-will or even treachery of others, can derail our plans). Everyone is going to fail at some point, often spectacularly, and if we cannot learn to deal with it life is going to be dismal and defeating.

“But how could God let me fail?!” Here’s the bottom line: We can become bitter toward God when pride tells us that we “deserved” a certain outcome (to quote a bazillion TV commercials). Reality check: Man should “not think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly …” (Rom 12:3). The world does not revolve around us or owe us anything. This planet is full of people smarter, stronger, shrewder and working harder than we are. And if we’re living for God, it hates us.

We need to get over ourselves and let God have control of our lives – and be thankful for His blessings and guidance. The person who thinks he knows what is best for him is deluded. Let God be God. We are but lowly, flawed creatures. He provides for us far beyond what we deserve, better than we can secure for ourselves. It is an insult to God to complain against Him when things don’t go exactly as we think they should.