How do we deal with resentment towards God when He has denied us such a deep desire such as marriage and family?

Hi Sam,
After a series of disappointments over a period of a few years, I realise I have grown resentful and bitter. I think of Psalm 73 and how like Asaph I look on those who are prospering. The difference is I don’t look out into the world. I look in the church and see how God has blessed others with marriage and with children. I look and see how he has answered, and is answering the prayers of others but not mine. For me, it seems a wicked act for God to withhold the joys of sexual intimacy and marriage from me, when he could ‘so easily’ grant this to me. I believe he is able to but has chosen not to. I’m struggling and reluctant to come back to a place where I can say that God is good and wisely or unwisely, I made the decision a few months ago to leave church. Any thoughts on this?

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Dear AdeM,

Thank you so much for joining us and for sharing so openly. I am so glad you felt able to.

There are all sorts of things one could say in reply, but I really want you to know that I understand something of what it feels like to see a church that seems full of lots of happy-looking marriages and families and to feel the pain of not having that myself. It can feel like it is standard-issue for other Christians, and that I have been short-changed.

Your reference to Psalm 73 is significant. It reminds us that godly people in the Scriptures have wrestled with God’s actions, and have even questioned his goodness to his face. These are questions God himself anticipates, and I take it that it is not intrinsically unspiritual to have them.

A couple of other thoughts:

  1. Marriage and parenthood are not always full of joy. I’ve been in pastoral ministry long enough to know the very many ways in which family life can bring unique and searing pain. I’ve seen marriages I was once tempted to envy falling apart in the most destructive of ways. I know other people who are lonely in their marriage and for whom sexual intimacy (when it even happens) feels empty and shallow because there is not a real connection behind it. I’ve had some married friends admit to me that they are sometimes envious of my singleness. This may be a hard thing to hear right now, but if you think marriage is what is going to make your life feel whole and complete, then marriage has become an idol. And even if you were to marry, it would put inordinate pressure on your marriage to look to it to deliver ultimate satisfaction. It couldn’t possibly do so.
  2. The fact that God is sovereign enough to be able to grant us marriage and sexual intimacy also means he is wise enough to have reasons we can’t yet see or understand for not giving us those things. If he is big enough to control all this, he is also big enough to know all sorts of things we don’t know, and to have plans we couldn’t have come up with ourselves.
  3. Deciding to leave church is, essentially, loading the dice against the goodness of God. One of the most significant means he gives us of seeing his goodness and wisdom is the local church. We see worked examples of people whose plans have been frustrated by God, and yet who might now be thanking him for it. We hear the teaching and confirmation of his goodness and wisdom from Scripture. We see that played out and received afresh in the sacraments. So the very act of leaving church is going to make it much harder for you to access the ways in which God shows us how we can trust him.
  4. Jesus himself is our model in trusting a God who says No. At Gethsemane, the perfect Son prayed to his Father asking for something good, and was denied it. And still followed God. God the Son knows (more than we do) what it is like to have what you yearn for withheld from you. So my heartfelt question for you is: Do you know better than Jesus?
    I hope this helps –– do feel very free to come back to me on any of this.
    Sam
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