An Underachieving God?

An Underachieving God?

One thing that causes us to struggle with our faith is a deep inner disappointment with the way life has turned out. We expected so much more and feel cheated. In Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the main character, Tess, is asked:

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”


“All like ours?”

“I don’t know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound—a few blighted.”

“Which do we live on—a splendid one or a blighted one?”

“A blighted one.”

For anyone disappointed with how her life has turned out, it’s easy to look at the world this way.

I remember sitting in an airport lobby one afternoon waiting for my wife to return from a trip. My oldest daughter, Kelsey, who was fourteen months old at the time, sat bouncing on my knee as we waited. An elderly lady with a thick eastern European accent sat down near us, and she and Kelsey laughed and played peekaboo for a long time.

Later she leaned over and smiled and said, “You good father. You love. You touch. You hug. You play.” Then her entire demeanor suddenly changed and she sternly said, “I had no good father. He kick. He hit. He say stupid. I’m seventy-nine years old, and because father—no lucky day whole life! Whole life!” She turned away, clutching her purse like it was a baby and rocking back and forth, mumbling to herself. My eyes welled up as I thought about how long she had been carrying this wound.

A few minutes later my wife walked through the gate, and after we kissed, we put our daughter in her stroller and walked off. As I looked back to say good-bye to the woman, she waved her finger at me and yelled, “Whole life! Whole life!”

Disappointment isn’t rare. I’m sure you can quickly count a number of people you know who feel they were dealt a blighted life. For people of faith this presents a serious problem. Christians believe God can change things. When it seems that he is content to stand by and let us live what we consider a mediocre life, we naturally doubt his presence, goodness, or both.

Many disappointed believers, at their lowest moments, can identify with Woody Allen. In the movie Love and Death, Allen’s character says, “The important thing, I think, is not to be bitter. You know, if it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think he is evil. I think that the worst you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.”

 Sign up HERE to get my articles delivered straight to your inbox.

Back to blog