All of us experience disappointments in life. These can be relatively minor circumstances (that sometimes come in bunches), disappointments that turn out to be merely a misunderstanding, devastating choices or circumstances that lead to major life upheavals, or even heart-breaking betrayals of trust. I believe that every disappointment has the potential to change us in some way. If we can learn to respond with grace to the disappointments that come our way, they can lead to growth and perhaps to eventual reconciliation where there is a need for that. Many times, situations have consequences that reach far into the future, but that just makes it even more important to respond in a way that prevents bitterness from taking root and leaves an open door for God’s grace to bring good out of the pain of disappointment.
There are several types of disappointment that we need to consider. First, there is what I’ll call a Circumstantial Disappointment. Secondly, there are Relational Disappointments. Third, we will deal with Regretful Disappointments. Finally, we can sometimes feel disappointment with God when the answers to prayer are long in coming or seem not to be coming at all. We’ll call that Spiritual Disappointment. There are some general truths for dealing with all kinds of disappointment and some specific considerations for different types of disappointment.
Some people feel that the best way to avoid disappointment is by choosing not to expect too much. I remember not long ago hearing some dialogue in which an individual took issue with the phrase, “Don’t get your hopes up.” I don’t recall the source of the dialogue in question, but it may have been in a movie. The response to being told, “Don’t get your hopes up!” went something like this: “Why not? Why wouldn’t I want my hopes to be up? That’s a very good place for hopes to be.” There’s a lot of truth in that. It’s certainly much better to be hopeful than hopeless. Yes, we will sometimes be disappointed; but it’s still worthwhile to live hopefully.
Hope can bond the hearts of people and give individuals something to look forward to. Hope can give us a reason to keep working and trying and overcoming. Most importantly, hope can become a testimony of faith and trust, speaking to the world around us with a message that the life of Christ within brings us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.” (lyrics from the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”)
Our hopefulness is an indication the we are holding to our trust in God. Even as we are trying to hold on, this truth holds us securely: God is good, and He loves us. When we know in the very depths of our souls that God is good and has our best interests on His heart, we can trust that whatever circumstance comes our way, God will use it to bring about good in our lives and in His Kingdom. So, the first and most important key to dealing with disappointment is a choice. We must choose to live hopefully. We must choose to reject the negative thoughts that enter our mind when we have been disappointed. Thoughts like “No one really cares about me” and “nothing ever works out in my life” are counter productive and depressing. To counter these kinds of thoughts, you may have to sit down and make some lists. Make a list of everyone who has been kind to you and demonstrated caring. Make a list of the blessings in your life. Make a list of the times when things have worked out well for you, and include times when something that seemed negative at first eventually turned into a positive. If you are dealing with a disappoinment that involves relationship, list the good qualities of the other person(s) or positive things about the relationship(s). Seeing these truths written in black and white can do a lot to help you choose hope.
KEY #2: Secondly, it is essential for us as Christians to look to scripture for help when we are dealing with disappointment.
* Study the ways that Biblical characters such as Joseph dealt with disappointment and even betrayal.
* Read the Psalms. Here, you will find a desperate longing for God, and sometimes the broken-hearted pleas for God’s deliverance from trials. No matter what the circumstance, the writers of the Psalms turned to God as their source of help and hope.
* Another helpful thing to do is to fill your mind with the promises of God. If you don’t have a little book of God’s promises from scripture, buy one and keep it on your nightstand.
- Remember who God is! He is mighty in power! The very same God who re-wrote the story of our lives through the sacrificial life and death and the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ is still changing lives, healing broken hearts, and mending fractured relationships today! The circumstances of today are NOT the end of the story…. because He who created Heaven and Earth lives in you.
Or, go to websites such as these:
God’s promises arranged by topic: http://www.smilegodlovesyou.org/promises.html
Daily scripture promise blog: http://www.365promises.com/
God’s promises in every book of the Bible: http://bible.org/article/selected-promises-god-each-book-bible
John Piper’s sermon on the promises of God: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/all-the-promises-of-god-are-yes-in-christ
Romans, Chapter 5, NIV
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but wec also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
(Scripture references above are copied from the Online Parallel Bible) http://bible.cc/
SPECIFIC TYPES OF DISAPPOINTMENT
All of us face times in life when circumstances change in a way that we did not expect or that seems less desirable than what we had hoped. These kind of circumstantial disappointments may involve something that didn’t happen as you had hoped. Or, they may involve something that happened which seems contrary to everything you had hoped. Sometimes these disappointments lead to eventually letting go of one dream for your life and grabbing hold of God’s promises and His new dream for you. Circumstances will happen to disappoint us all, and each time we must choose to look at the positives in the situation. The reactions we have to the disappointment of our hopes can range from mild irritation (having to re-arrange your schedule because a flight was cancelled, for example) to feeling absolutely devastated (the sale of your home fell through, or you were laid off, or you didn’t get admitted to the University of your choice). No matter how strong our reaction may be, each disappointment results in the following choices:
2. Choosing to give up on a hope or dream OR seeking God’s direction about whether to allow Him to give you a new dream or to persevere in seeking this hope but perhaps through another avenue.
3. Choosing to become bitter about what has been denied OR allowing God to use disappointment to refine our character.
4. Choosing to become stuck in the past and our unfulfilled hope OR moving forward with trust and faith in God, knowing that He will work all things (even this disappointment) for our good.
5. Feeling hopeless OR allowing God to restore our hope as time passes and the mental and spiritual adjustment is made not only to the reality that the disappointment has occurred, but to the possiblities of the future!
There is a grieving process with any disappointment, and it is necessary. After all, it takes time to re-adjust your thinking to a new reality. However, we must always be seeking God as the Source of our comfort, our transformation to the likeness of Christ, and ultimately, our hope. God wants us to be honest with Him in prayer. He knows we are devastated and disappointed, but He wants us to talk to Him about it. His Spirit can only minister peace in a situation that has been turned over to Him. A new dream can only be given when we choose to allow Him to turn our disappointment into possibilities that we’d never imagined. Give yourself the grace of seeing each day as a new beginning, full of possibilities and promise as you release the disappointments of the past and surrender each moment to the Lord. The reality of your disappointment can become a stepping stone to newness in your life and even to a reality more joyful or profound than anything you could have dreamed. Hold on to your relationship with God through the grieving and adjustment period, and hold on to hope!
Relational disappointment can be the most devastating type of disappointment. Someone has let us down or even intentionally hurt us…often in a BIG way. Broken hearts result from relational disappointment. Here, we are not only dealing with our feelings about what has happened. We are also dealing with the ongoing relationship. When we have been badly hurt, anger is often our response. However, the expression of anger can cause even more relational difficulty. It’s good to keep in mind some considerations of the other person and the relationship you have to them. As you work through the process of dealing with the disappointment and hurt that you feel, you can choose to show grace by valuing the person and the relationship more than your right to be angry and hurt. Although the grieving and adjustment process for relational disappointment is the same as for any other type, the feelings and the potential relational consequences involved require careful consideration of a few additional factors.
First, remember that you, too, have at times disappointed someone. None of us can perfectly meet the needs of another person. We will all make mistakes, forget something important, or fail to handle a situation appropriately from time to time. We all will have times when we need to apologize for disappointing someone else (as well as times when we need to forgive someone for disappointing us).
Secondly, we need to realize that what seems a big failure or disappointment may have been out of someone’s control or may have resulted from a miscommunication of some type. Here, I will give an example of something that occurred at one of the churches where Travis had served. There was a person who was a part-time employee in Music Ministry at the church, and this individual had been serving for a number of years. Travis was new at the church and was still learning how things were done. Procedures and policies very widely from church to church, and that fact would be brought home in this situation. At the church Travis had left prior to coming to this new church, the Personnel Committee had always taken care of farewells and thank yous to those who were leaving a paid position in the church. However, when this person was no longer employed by the church, nothing was done by that committee. By the time that Travis realized that things were handled differently at the new church, the former employee was already very upset and feeling unappreciated. Though he tried to correct the mistake he’d made by assuming procedures were similar, the attempts were rejected by the former employee. Travis would have liked to have had the opportunity to show appreciation properly; but because of a misunderstanding and the resulting disappointment, that never happened as it should have.
Many times, relational disappointments do result from some sort of misunderstanding. When there seems to have been a mess up or a large oversight that affects you, try not to automatically assume the worst and get all upset without knowing the facts. There may be reasons why things happened as they did of which you are unaware. Sometimes, knowing what happened can help and can even save a relationship. Therefore, we all need to give each other the grace of refusing to jump to conclusions. If you can talk to the person or persons who were involved in whatever led to your disappointment and tell them, “I really felt… (disappointed, betrayed, unappreciated…fill in the blank) because….” (Keep it short and mention only one or two main factors, without detail. Hopefully, this can come across without condemnation or anger.) Then, ask for clarification, “I didn’t want to assume anything without giving you the opportunity to explain, so can you tell me what happened?” Give the person some time to think and consider a response. Just sit and wait without saying anything further. It could be that there are real reasons for the way things happened that you never knew about. The problem could even have resulted from something that you did or said that the other person did not know how to handle. The truth could immediately make you feel better. If so, you may have prevented permanent damage to a relationship by seeking understanding. Or, the truthful answer could hurt at first. It may be that the truth is a mirror, reflecting an area in your own life where some change needs to take place or just an outright failure or oversight by the other party. Either way, these kinds of hurtful truths can be stepping stones to growth and to better understanding eventually if we keep the door of relationship open and work to have better understanding and resolve problems. Regardless of the steps that need to be taken, forgiveness is always appropriate. Even if something happened that was totally wrong, forgiveness will ultimately set you free from bitterness and from living in the past. Ask God to give you an open heart to any changes that you need to make and grace for the other person, just as you have been shown grace and mercy.
When you think that you have someone figured out and that you are disappointed in who they are, remember that there may be many things that you do not know about this person or about their life. Some of your asumptions may be totally wrong. Give others the grace of forgiveness and a second chance. You may be making yourself totally miserable by harboring negative feelings that are not even based upon fact. Pray for this person, and allow God to work in them and in you. You may be surprised at what He will do!
If a relationship proves to be totally unhealthy, seek counsel about what to do. No one has to stay in an abusive situation. You cannot change another person. Change can only come when the other person desires to change, and a lot of changes require God’s help.
Sometimes, our lives can become filled with regret if we dwell on past mistakes or on what we wish we had done in a situation. These things are truly beyond our control. They are in the past. What matters is how we live NOW and what we do to make things better NOW. Give yourself the grace of letting go. Learn from past mistakes, fix what you can, and then remember Paul’s testimony and advice:
“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already become perfect. But I keep pursuing it, hoping somehow to embrace it just as I have been embraced by the Messiah Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it yet. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in the Messiah Jesus.” – Phillippians 3;12 – 14 (International Standard Version)
The Serenity Prayer can also be helpful.
Spiritual disappointment can be extremely difficult. As Christians, we know that God is good and that He is able to do anything and to meet our needs. We feel that we should be content to trust His wisdom about the when and the how. We often don’t feel that we can even talk to other Christians about our disappointment. This kind of scenario can lead to feeling totally alone, as though one is abandoned by God but can’t talk about it because to do so would only lead to rejection from other believers who may want to comfort you but who actually fear the pain and loss you have experienced and want you to repeat phrases like “God is so good!’ or “His timing is perfect” for your good and for their comfort. The Book of Job is about just such a struggle. It’s a battle for Job between what he knows he should feel and what other believers are telling him to feel versus how he actually does feel. At the beginning of the time of trial for Job, God expresses confidence in the faith of Job. And yet, even for a mature believer, there is a process of sorting through thoughts, grieving loss, and finding that your faith still holds true. Job wants to know why. He knows that he has done nothing wrong to provoke God’s judgement in the form of the calamity that has come upon his household, and yet He acknowledges that God is sovereign over all. God Himself speaks with Job, and the truths that come out of this conversation are that God does not have to reveal His reasons to us and yet, He wants us to come to Him with our questions. There is no way that we could fully understand the interactions of every human heart and every circumstance as God does. We don’t have the infinite understanding to fathom God’s reasoning, but God gives us the mercy and grace to allow us to question Him, to ask why, and to express our pain, our deep grief, our disappointment, and even our anger. After we have asked out questions and cried out our pain, peace comes only when we finally choose to trust. It is a process, and that process is part of the healing and growth. So, the ultimate message about spiritual disappointment is that it will come to everyone, that we must take it to Him, and that He will teach and comfort us through the pain.
KEY #3: Turning to God in our disappointment and being honest with Him in prayer is the third key for dealing with disappointment.
In earlier paragraphs, I had stated that the other two keys are choosing to live hopefully, based upon your knowledge of God’s goodness and your desire to have a positive outlook, and then turning to scripture for help in coping with disappointment. So, my friends, choose hope! Seek answers in God’s word, and turn to Him with all of your questions and hurts as you work through the process of moving forward in your life after you have been disappointed. These three keys to coming through a disappointment and moving forward without bitterness are not a ‘quick fix’. There is no easy answer and no quick solution. Allow yourself the grace of processing all that has happened and thinking through what this means for the future.
God wants to bring possibility and promise out of this situation for you. He wants to heal your heart and give you new hope. He wants to communicate His love for you and renew your confidence in His goodness. Blessings to you in the journey!
* A SONG FOR YOU * Here’s a link to a song that may be helpful to you: http://soundcloud.com/travis-l-boyd/god-is-faithful-satb-choral
* HERE’S A BONUS *
Check out this excellent teaching about disappointment by TV host, author, and speaker Michelle McKinney Hammond on the 700 Club’s “Voices of Hope” series (segment #2) about facing life issues. Here’s the link to the series. (You will have to select and click on the Segment #2 link to see the video with the teaching about disappointment.): http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/
Interestingly, in the 700 club interview that allows her to explain her teaching on disappointment, Ms. Hammond also speaks of the need for demonstrating grace when facing disappointment, saying, “Don’t expect divinity from humanity. Have grace for<em> people, </em>and place your expectations <em>on God</em>.” Additionally, she also speaks of trusting God through the disappointment (as in our blog article), but she does state some of her teaching in some unique ways that will be helpful to anyone who is seeking additional insights to learn the lessons of disappointment while holding on to faith, preserving relationships, and dealing with pain. Listen near the end of the interview for your assignment, when Ms. Hammond speaks of God’s plan in the disappointment and our corresponding job as the steward of the experience.
Here is a link to information about her book called How to Get Past Disappointment; (Note: I have not read the book, but I am recommending it based upon hearing the teaching in the above link, which is a portion of what is contained in the book. – C. A. Boyd) Book info: http://www.amazon.com/How-Get-Past-Disappointment-Finding/dp/0736937862
This post was written by C. A. Boyd
Do you know Jesus?
The decision to ask Jesus to come into your heart and life as your Lord and Savior is the best decision you could ever make! The one true God is ready to give you forgiveness and eternal life as soon as you understand your need for Him and believe on the name of His only Son, Jesus, for your salvation. Here’s a blog page link to help you find the answers to your questions about Jesus. http://www.worshipsounds.wordpress.com/do-you-know-jesus/