Dealing with Disappointment
‘God gives us what we would want if we knew everything He knows.’ I have said this line many times and I really do believe it, but it is SO much more difficult to preach personally in the midst of disappointment. The longer that I anticipate something and the closer it feels to reality, the harder it is when it doesn’t happen. Low levels of disappointment are pretty typical and I think if I’m not careful it’s easy to just bury the feeling of frustration and discouragement but I think God allows big ones to remind us of His plan and purpose and make us renew our dependency on Him.
Our kids have often provided beautiful examples of this for me. In the life of our three-year-old little girl there are no minor moments. Whether it’s the exact food she wants but it’s on the wrong plate or an outfit she insisted on moments ago that now is an unthinkable wardrobe choice, she will completely melt down. As parents we can look at her and realize that it is a small issue and even a little silly from our perspective but they aren’t too her. Because we love her we meet her where she is and try to lovingly show her the bigger perspective and let her cry and even have an occasional tantrum over something that shouldn’t touch that level of emotional response but by creating a measure of safety we get to see where she really is and pray for God to change and shape her through it. God does the same thing with us, but unlike us He does it perfectly and supplies supernatural strength.
Paul says it this way, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:2-5).”
I know that words don’t dull the pain but I believe they point to its purpose in our lives. God does not refine us through a process of simple addition but rather constant change and challenge in our hearts that impacts our whole selves.
I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of Tim Keller and his book ‘Walking with God through Pain and Suffering,’ is a really helpful resource and he shares this thought, “The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that.” Ultimately the power of the Gospel is that everything, especially good things, will disappoint us and we must constantly reestablish our connection to and dependence on Jesus Himself as our source of strength. I hope that my own faith might be strengthened through recent disappointment by a time of remembering and reconnecting to the hope of my soul for eternity.