Suppose you meet a husband and wife who are going through serious trouble in their marriage. As you talk with them, you learn that the wife is distant and extremely hard to please. She demands that her husband be “perfect—she actually uses those very words—and spells out what that what would look like in very specific terms.
The trouble is fairly straightforward: he can’t measure up to her standard even when he gives it his best effort. He used to try harder to please her, but at this point he’s exhausted from daily failure and tired of being reminded how even his best efforts are flawed. His inability to make her happy leaves him depressed, and he now tends to give up easily.
The most perplexing part of the dilemma is that the wife insists that she loves her husband. “Love is a choice, not an emotion.” He hears this every day. “And I am choosing to love you right now even though you did this, this, and this wrong.” She proceeds to make dinner for him in silence.
Dysfunctional, right? But hardly surprising. Even those of us who aren’t married can understand how easily a husband in those shoes would struggle with depression.
How Does God Feel About You—When You Fail Every Day?
If you were to assess your current relationship with Christ, I wonder how you would describe it. Would you resonate with the feelings of a spouse who can never measure up? I know I’ve felt that way often, and I think this struggle is common.
Last Sunday after church, my friend’s eyes were tired. When I asked a question, it was met with this answer:
God calls me to be perfect. Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s what He expects of me, and I fail His expectation every day. So yes, I do believe God’s disappointed in me. Of course. All the time.
We rolled up our sleeves and looked at the meaning of Matthew 5:48 and talked about God’s emotions and expectations. It was good stuff.
But before we go there (it will take another post to unpack the theology in that conversation), let’s return to the analogy of a husband and wife again. This time I want you to think about the healthiest, happiest couple you know. What stands out to you?
In my own observations, I’ve witnessed something consistent: the happiest husbands are often the men with the most gracious wives—and vice versa. These spouses have learned how to overlook faults, forgive sin promptly and sincerely, and love their husbands and wives on both good and bad days. They’re genuinely happy in their beloved’s presence—and it shows in their eyes and their voices. Their love is neither blind nor an emotionally disengaged choice; it is a choice, but it’s a choice accompanied with tender affection, too.
Unsurprisingly, the men these women are married to are often excited to come home after work—and I would challenge you to find a man more eager to delight his wife than the man who already feels secure in his wife’s love.
In light of all that, try to think how different the first marriage would be if just one variable was different. What if the wife was easy to please?
Suppose she didn’t have impossible expectations—and suppose she made it perfectly clear how glad she was every time her husband came to her just to spend time with her. Suppose her face lit up every time he did something he knew she liked in particular, even when he didn’t do it “perfectly.” Suppose she loved him with warmth, not just with words and acts of kindness like cooking dinner. How would that change the marriage dynamic?
Juggle these thoughts around in your mind and let them balloon, expanding to fill out all the corners.
Then imagine what it would be like if God wasn’t disappointed with you.
If He was, in fact, very, very easy to please.
And if He was utterly delighted when He thinks about who you are.
I want to suggest a tantalizing, ludicrous, wonderful idea—perhaps you’ve been misunderstanding God.
I’m going to come back to wrestle through the biblical arguments on this topic next month, but let’s get the discussion rolling first.
- The Bible teaches that God is grieved by our sin (Eph. 4:30). Is disappointment different from grief? If so, how?
- Can God feel grief toward your sin and affection toward you simultaneously? If so, how? If not, why not?
- The Bible also teaches that God disciplines us because He loves us (John 15:2). How does His love manifest itself when we’re being “pruned”?
- James 4:8 promises us that God draws near to us when we draw near to Him. Do you shy away from drawing close to God and seeking to please Him because you feel like it’s a lost cause?
- Do your actions reflect a belief that God is hard to please or easy to please? Does He critically find fault with everything you do, or does He delight in you even while He calls you deeper into holiness?
- Do your actions reflect a belief that God’s love for you is a choice devoid of warmth and affection?
- God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3). How can a perfectly holy God still be easily pleased by His children?
- Why does being “easily pleased” mean something night-and-day different from “tolerating of sin, turning a blind eye” or “having low standards”?