With life, inevitably comes disappointment. Large or small, they all cause pain. The dream job does not eventuate, a relationship falls apart, an exam is failed, a shock medical diagnosis is received, expected goals are not achieved … the list for all of us could go on and on, and on. Whilst we draw breath, disappointment will, from time to time, be experienced. That we experience it is not the issue, our response is.
Disappointment is felt when there is a gap between our expectations and reality. We expected to get the promotion, we expected to win the game, we expected to be married now, to have children, to own our own home. In these COVID times, disappointment has piled upon disappointment; holidays longed for, cancelled, weddings planned for, postponed, birthdays looked forward to, celebrated alone, jobs invested into, lost, businesses built over years, closed.
The Bible is replete with men and women facing disappointment:
· Joseph the dreamer, sold into slavery
· Hannah the favored wife, unable to bear children
· Naomi who went away full, but came back empty
· Moses, Israel’s leader denied access to the promise land
· Hagar weeping over the imminent death of her son
· Job who in one day, lost all he owned
· David the king whose own son tore the kingdom from his hands
· Elijah the man of God, hunted by Jezebel
· Paul the Apostle beaten and stoned for obediently fulfilling his call
· Jesus our Master denied by Peter and deserted by the crowds
Each life touched by disappointment. Each overcame. What wisdom do they give to us; 21st century Christians facing our own very real disappointments.
Bring it to God
God knows how you feel. He is not surprised nor shocked by your anger, frustration, and grief. Now is not the time to hide from God. Sit with Him and honestly share your disappointment and sense of loss. He cannot minister beyond our level of honesty. What we hold onto He cannot heal. Don’t minimize the pain, but do not let it dominate your life either. There comes a time when we must pick ourselves up and move passed the pain. How we respond to disappointment is shaped by our view of God. It is not God who has disappointed us, circumstances and people have. Shore up your convictions on God’s goodness toward you now, so that in times of disappointment you can draw from this well of truth.
David provides an excellent example of facing disappointment. Ziklag has been burnt to the ground and all who were dear to him and his men had been captured by the Amalekites. Their response was to weep until they could weep no more. But the men then wanted to kill David. Their disappointment led to bitterness. David’s led him to finding strength in God. He had done this before. He knew who to run to in a time of desperate disappointment. He knew how to access the strength he needed to lead his distressed men to victory.
Be kind to yourself
Own your disappointment but do not build a monument. Own your disappointment, do not lie to yourself that it does not matter. It does matter, and it does hurt. Christians are humans. Cut us and we bleed. Faced with disappointment we experience sadness in its many forms. Covering over those very real emotions, trying to spiritualize what has happened, will not help you move on. C.S Lewis commented “I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”
Here are a few things to consider as you are kind to yourself:
· Take some time to do things you enjoy and that energise you.
· You may need some time alone to “lick your wounds.” But do not isolate for too long.
· Journal or talk with a friend to find God’s perspective on what has occurred.
· Do something physical, go for a walk, a run, do a session at the gym, or even take a nap.
Build a right perspective
When we are faced with disappointment in one area of our lives, it is easy to think our whole life is over. The emotion from loss in one segment of our multifaceted lives, spills like flood waters over the bank of a dam and cascades through every area. Take charge. Recognise the loss of being passed over for a promotion, or the loss of a friendship, does not mean your life is destroyed. There are many, many areas of your life which are functioning well. Put your problems in perspective. Will this really matter a year from now, one month, one week? What we fret about now we may be grateful for in the future as we recognize God had something far better for us.
Ask, what lessons can I learn? Disappointment, when given to God, can build character and patience. Paul reminds us, “We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us …”