Between Isaacs and Samuels: The Space Where God Disappoints


“What is the name of the space where God disappoints?”

By Enuma Okoro | Twitter: @TweetEnuma

God keeps tripping over my beggar bowl and spilling its meager contents.

So I am going to stop begging.

My heart is weary from begging.

I know why Sarah did what she did with Hagar and Abraham. I know how Eli found Hannah, drunk with the pain of prayer. Right or wrong, God disappoints. Me. You. All of us at some time.

Yes. God is faithful. I know of Isaac and Samuel. God Laughs. God Hears.

But what of the space between laughter and hearing, between Isaacs and Samuels? What is the name of the space where God disappoints?

That space is the place where many people dwell, where temporary settlements and makeshift camps start to take on the permanency of home. So what is the name of that place? I want to validate the reality of that place with a name. I want us to learn to speak openly about that place and to remember the people who live there.

Where God disappoints.

Where children are not born.

Where men and women walk one-by-one instead of two-by-two.

Where loaves and fishes do not multiply.

Where the poor in spirit or body do not seem blessed.

Where the faithfulness of God seems to be just a rumor.

Who are the priests that dwell with the people between God’s laughter and God’s hearing? What are the sacraments in the nameless place where God disappoints? If nothing else, I want the bread and the wine, the faint reminder that when the body of God was broken and the blood of God was shed, and the Son of God cried out words of forsakenness, that at one time God even disappointed God.

So maybe that is the name of the place–the long sad sing-song name of “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?”

I can live with that naming because it comes from the very mouth of God. Have you heard of that place? Do you know people who live in that place? Can you serve from that place? Can you love from that place? Maybe it is possible to set up camp in that place because I know that God has been there and whatever spaces God has been in, God somehow still remains.

And I know what happens after the Golgatha cry, after Sarah’s scheming and Hannah’s weeping. God moves from disappointing and invites us to new realities, new places where we shuffle our feet reluctantly, tiptoe carefully, uncertain if we can trust the ground, if we can move from pain to healing. Uncertain if we can trust the  God who Rises, who laughs, who listens.


My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear:

  • Have you ever found yourself in that space where God disappoints?
  • How have you met (or are you meeting) God in that place?
  • What do you name that place?
  • Any other thoughts or comments?


About Enuma

Enuma was born in the United States and raised in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and England. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School where she served as Director for the Center for Theological Writing. She is an author, speaker, spiritual director and continues to lead workshops and retreats on varied topics engaging the literary and visual arts, and spiritual disciplines.

Her spiritual memoir, Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community (Fresh Air Books, 2010) was a winning finalist in the 2010 USA Best Books Award and received the 2011 National Indie Excellent Book Awards Winning Finalist in “Spirituality and African-American Non-Fiction.” She is co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Okoro’s new forthcoming book, “Silence,” will be released in Summer/Fall 2012

She blogs at Reluctant Pilgrim on Patheos about women’s ways of knowing and engaging the holy. You can find her online at

Image credit: Woman with bowl, by Justin Hubbard


Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

Latest posts by Idelette McVicker (see all)

Idelette McVicker
  • oh, yes. i know we serve and love from that place. i have seen you do it, friend. blessings even in those places that feel most God-forsaken. valleys fill first.

    i loved meeting you this week, enuma, and wish we’d had hours. so glad you’ll be writing here regularly.

  • Pingback: She Loves()

  • Sarah Bessey

    Oh, Enuma. This leaves me breathless. I have felt that space “between” for about six years. Only in the past year, have I felt myself “emerging” out of it (I can’t help it! I still love that word so much.) out of it, to find God’s faithfulness. Mine was more around church and community frustrations/figuring out stuff but the restoration of community and a love for the Bride of Christ has been sweet. I am afraid of forgetting though how it hurts to be in the in-between, to not offer the grace I so craved int hat season.

    • Six years … I forget that you had those years, Sarah. I so often just see you in your flourishing right now that I forget that you had your emerging years. (I love that word still too … especially in context of metamorphosis– becoming who are meant to be.) Just writing this now, I imagine those years help us become the new creature… Like Jesus’ hanging on the cross ushering in new life and uttering those disappointed words. I remember my own dying of self (read: immigration to Canada) Those cocooning, quiet, disregarded, forgotten years = stripping and therefore strengthening at the core. Perhaps we all need to have this period of dying to self in order to experience the resurrection, the flourishing … But like you said: “I am afraid of forgetting though how it hurts to be in the in-between, to not offer the grace I so craved in that season.” I don’t want to forget …

  • Krista

    i have been in that place. sometimes i still am in that place. and i know God is faithful, and He loves me, and everything happens in His timing. i *know* that. but sometimes i am tired of other people telling me that. and in those moments, i am thankful that He also knows what it is to be alone, what it is to be disappointed, what it is to lose, what it is to die.

    • Your words so moved me right now: “and in those moments, i am thankful that He also knows what it is to be alone, what it is to be disappointed, what it is to lose, what it is to die.” How grateful I am for a God who can meet us in those exact places. #wipingsometears Thank you for your comment.

  • I so loved that you named this in-between space, Enuma. There have been so many in-between seasons … I loved that you named it and brought it to that uttering of breath on a cross.

    I love how you said this: “Maybe it is possible to set up camp in that place because I know that God has been there and whatever spaces God has been in, God somehow still remains.” I am so grateful we have a God who shares that space and knows it intimately … that it’s another place where He has gone before.

    Thank you for your beautiful words from a pilgrim heart.

    • daniela

      Hmmm. I am thinking of my semi desperate text to you Idelette and this is resonating. In-between.

  • Thank you for this, Enuma. It is beautiful and calls out the questions, the fears, the doubts and leaves us with the aftertaste of hope (not easily done). Thank you for speaking truth, in love.

  • Amy

    Thank you Enuma. I too have been there. Sometimes still find myself there. After years of infertility we were never blessed with the miracle baby and all roads towards adoption seems closed to us. So we are married w/out children and am learning to adjust our dreams and our lives to “just us”. Through it all God is faithful. So very faithful. Bigger than this and not limited by our time or space. There are still miracles. There are still chance encounters with the Divine. He loves us so. Bless you.

  • Thank you all for so kindly reading and responding to this post. It amazes me how God uses the hard places to draw us in. It is a gift to me to share my writing with you all. Thanks for sharing your own thoughtful and honest replies.

    • Rachel

      Thankyou for your brave words. Walking in and out of seasons in our life, chisseling our form to mould into His. Walking through the furnace. It is trusting our God especially when we don’t feel Him near and knowing fellowship in this that enables us on.

  • Stacy Wiebe

    I found the book about Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” a wise and understanding companion. Some people misinterpreted her pain and unanswered doubts as a deviation from her faith, but I believe that they revealed it.

  • Amanda

    Beautiful. Yes, there must be brokenness, a cross, before there can be new life. I’ve been in that place in and out for years, not knowing just what God is doing with it, but knowing that He Is. He Is…

  • Pingback: Between Isaacs and Samuels: The Space Where God Disappoints « :: live simply :: love deeply ::()

  • Christina Wilson

    Even in the darkness, God is so faithful. He is our portion. “My lovingkindnesses are new every morning. My compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Thank you Lord that you are always working – even (or more especially) when we can’t see what you’re doing. Thank you Lord that you are trustworthy, gentle, and full of grace. Thank you for leading me through the dark, lonely places where you have walked before me. Thank you Lord for never leaving me.

  • ap

    i love this! Beggar Bowls are where i live GOD has something ELSE i keep begging him for.


    I came to this TODAY, disappointment only comes ONE without COUNSEL and two GOD doesnt promise us somethings,

    you made a statement that some will not be fed but i disagree b/c His word PROMISES this. He doesnt PROMISE us a SPOUSE or a child those are CONDITIONAL, HE doesnt even PROMISE us happiness again it depends on our delighting in HIM and whether we do what is REQUIRED. so there are some provisional things in place.

    I am in a place like Hannah today there are dreams that have no manifested, hopes i have seen DASHED once and DASHED again, however these are not promises they are wants. I didnt fulfill the requirements so HE took my BOWL and GAVE it so someone else. OUCH. Hannah had a promise from GOD, as far as i KNOW I have not been told I WILL DO THIS directly by GOD I’m sure if HE said it HE would FULFILL it..HANNAH didnt even have a promise she had a want and hope and she went to GOD with it and eventually it was granted. She was PROACTIVE though she didnt have a LONG period between the wanting and the asking, i would question if there is this LONG period of time inbetween, (remember ELI said her request was granted) the man of GOD said it not GOD directly..So again if there’s a long period in between i would WONDER if this is indeed GOD or something that YOU have created in our own mind. He is sovereign and what ever our purpose and how we will best serve Him will be primary not secondary He answers our prayers b/c He is good but not because HE has to, and if what we ask will Harm us HE rather not give it us. Thanks this is where i am today and have finally come to some peace about it.

  • ap

    so again Hannah’s is different from Sarah, Sarah had a promise from GOD, Hannah did not, but both had a purpose from GOD perhaps Hannah’s purpose shows us we ask for things God will give them and Sarah’s is how to wait when the going gets rough, either way the key for ME is DID GOD say, the story wouldve been different if Hannah’s request had not been granted i also think it was for Hannah and ALSO her enemies, and how to teach us to wait, but there are people wondering why God hasnt granted certain things and i would say did God say He was gonna do that,

    Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established Proverbs 15 22

  • Joni

    That place was where I felt God the strongest.
    In a time where I lost the most important thing to me and had been hurt in ways I could have never dreamed possible, that is when the reality of God began to be apparent.

    I’d been agnostic forever, constantly seeking faith, praying self-consciously and doubtfully. I’d been to sweat lodges, goddess circles, pagan altars, and pondered Rumi and Gibran. I kept seeking and seeking faith.

    Only when my heart was ripped open did I consider Christianity. And still I turned away. God was patient, whispering, subtle.

    Eventually I was made welcome, so I quietly went to church, hoping to slide into a pew without having to look anyone in the eye. What I got was embraced, ushered to the middle of the front pew with four elders on either side, gently helping me find the right pages in the prayer book. The love that is God manifested and all those times of pain crystalized into a remembrance of God abiding quietly in me, waiting patiently where I would be ready to abide in Him.

    • Thank you Joni was this open revealing response. I’m working on finding God in that place. I know he is there. Blessings to you.