Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Disappointed, Now What?

Disappointment.  It's hard to take.  It comes into the picture when the reality we face is not what we would choose for ourselves.  

There's the awe shucks kind of disappointment on the one hand, and then there's the kind of disappointment that reaches our heart and makes us hurt so deeply we can hardly breathe.

And when our hearts hurt, we are forced to do some soul searching.  We reexamine what we know to be true.  Disappointment can be agonizing and make us feel paralyzed in time.  It can be life changing.  Disappointment comes in all shapes and sizes, and it doesn't matter how old we are or how hard we try to avoid it.  It hits us when we don't want it to.  

Disappointment interrupts the perfect lives we think we need in two ways.  From one direction, disappointment comes from circumstances completely beyond our human control, some thing in our life that just isn't the way we want it to be, some news we didn't want to hear, some event we wished had turned out differently, results we weren't expecting.  Despite our best and good and honest efforts, it cannot be helped, and we have to deal with it.  That's one source of disappointment.  Then there's the disappointment that comes from people.   It's inherit in our nature as human beings.  No matter how much we love, we disappoint, and we are disappointed.  People do not meet the expectations we have for them.  Whether we like it or not, at some point, those closest to us disappoint us.  People run from the truth, create some false sense of reality, act in ways that we know are not good.  People make mistakes, choices that are clearly wrong or unhealthy.  It's so easy for us to see, and it seems nearly impossible for them to see.  Sometimes bad choices turn into long lasting bad habits we cannot understand.  People end up hurting themselves and others.  Sometimes, we disappoint ourselves, and there's no one else to blame.  It is frustrating.  It can be devastating and even life threatening.  

And in a world of disappointment, sometimes we have to deal with both disappointing, uncontrollable circumstances and disappointing people all at the same time.  That can be a lot to handle at once.  Why am I writing all this?  Well, because that's where I found myself not too long ago, and I am struggling to work through it.  Heartbroken.  Deflated.  Exhausted.  Out of words.  Because, don't you know, not even our most convincing arguments and our most devoted efforts can change our disappointment.  It's there, here, now what?  

Like everything else in my life at this point, I am trying to figure out how God wants me to see and deal with this disappointment I have in front of me.  What does God want me to do with it?  My own first reaction is to get mad and scream it's not fair, like a child!  I feel powerless, and I don't like it  The truth is, though, we are never powerless because we have God power at our fingertips.  That's my biggest resource, I know, but how do I tap into it?  Because just knowing I have God on my side, although it gives me comfort, doesn't tell me exactly how to handle myself and it.

That's when listening to God becomes so important.  He doesn't disappoint us and walk away.  Disappointment is God's way of saying He knows best.

So, I turn to the best, often overlooked, "how-to" guide on faithful living, the Bible. Yeah, those people are so yesterday, but their stories are timeless, priceless good advice, God's Living Words on what works and what doesn't.  Heartbroken.  Deflated.  Exhausted.  Out of words.  Disappointed.  That's me.  

That was also Abraham and Sarah when they couldn't conceive a child for so long.  I am pretty sure it wasn't in their plan to be starting over and having babies in their very old age when they expected to be retired and relaxing.  I am reminded of all Joseph went through because of his brothers' ridiculous jealousy.  Joseph couldn't have been very happy or excited about being sold into slavery and sent far away for countless hard years.  I think of Balaam and his stubborn pain for a donkey who wouldn't work with him to get him where he wanted to go.  I think about John the Baptist, faithfully doing what God called him to do (in the wilderness of all places), the very man who prepares the way for Jesus and baptizes Him.  That poor man's head was served to some mean, ignorant people on a platter.  I am pretty sure that's not the way John would have chosen to go if he had his say.  And let's not forget, the story of the Prodigal Son.  I am sure that loving father wished his son would have made better choices and spared him a ton of sleepless nights and heartache instead of running away.  There's also Jonah, Ruth and Naomi, Job, Samuel and David, and Daniel.  These are all stories in the Bible of disappointments that faithful people had to face, and there are many more like these.  

I find hope and inspiration in these stories.  Why?  Because even though all of these people made plenty of mistakes along the way, God used every one of their stories for good and His glory (Romans 8:28).  With God, our biggest disappointments serve even bigger purposes.  God loves a good story for His glory.

I certainly wish I could come up with a step by step guide that would guarantee all of us a way out of disappointment that we so desperately want (and are sure we need).  Unfortunately, as soon as we think it couldn't possibly get any worse, it sometimes does.  Just when we think we have things figured out, we don't.  There's no predictable process.  Disappointments are like life, up and down, but what's at the heart of trusting God when we are hurting the most?  Our answer is Jesus, and not just because He died for us and saves us from our sins.  Look at Him.  Draw near to Him.  There is no better example.  He was the only perfect person to walk the face of the earth and live a sinless life.  He did things the right way.  Not only was He God in the flesh, He too, faced disappointment and struggled.  Reread His story about being betrayed, tortured, nailed to a cross, and murdered (Matthew 26-28). So when disappointment comes our way, the writer of Hebrews seems to agree, we have to ask ourselves, WWJD.  What would Jesus do?

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a story for God's glory like no other.  In Jesus' suffering, we have some life principles we can use for our own lives.  And not only that, since we are sure to mess up, we can be thankful for God's mercy and grace that comes to us through Jesus.  Okay, back to WWJD and principles we can choose to adopt from Jesus' experience on the cross to help us through our own disappointment.  
  • We can trust God with our lives, like Jesus did.  We are not alone.  When we agree to let God direct our steps, we can accept our disappointment for what it's worth, God's direction for our lives.  We don't have to talk ourselves into liking it, but we should be thankful for it.  Yep.  You heard me right.  I said thankful.  It's just the way things are at the moment.  God doesn't promise us an easy, perfect life.  He promises us a perfectly, imperfect, purposeful, glorious and everlasting life with Him.  That makes our disappointment nothing more than a stepping stone to the abundant, full life God is working out for us.
  • We can take the time to be alone with God to pray again, and again, and again until we know what He wants us to do next, just like Jesus did.  Jesus prayed three times for God to rescue Him from the pain and heartache He was facing on the cross (Mark 14:36).  While God did rescue Him for eternity, Jesus still had to go through a great deal of pain to get there.  At the same time, Jesus was also blessed with many God-given gifts along the way.  So when what God calls us to do is unbearable and excruciatingly painful, when we reach our breaking point, we can call out to Him for strength.  We can expect to be blessed even in our disappointment.  We can pray for those who hurt us, and we can forgive the way God forgives us.  That's often when God reveals a miracle He has been working on all along. 
  • We can choose to love anyway, like Jesus did.  Jesus loved extravagantly, even the most unlovable, sinful, disappointing people around despite His own disappointments in this life.  He did not let disappointments define Him or His relationships with others.  Do you know how he managed that?  Jesus loves to this day and forever without expectations, selflessly.  Our love doesn't have to make sense to us.  It doesn't have to be understandable or deserved.  We just have to accept God's unconditional love in our own lives and use it to love others in the same way.  We can do it, even though it's difficult at times, because God tells us to, and because God promises to help us do it, many times that comes in help that is completely unseen.  That's the only way to be sure we are moving through our disappointments to higher ground, rather than standing still or running away in the wrong direction.  

As I remember all the life stories in the Bible, especially Jesus' story, I find a new sense of peace, determination, and strength for my own life story with God.  I pray you do too.  I find great comfort from the fact that God shows me again and again, how much He loves a good story for His glory.  

Disappointments are God's way of guiding us in His direction.  When we seek God, our current situation, good or bad, is our assignment from Him (Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc.).  Disappointments put us exactly where God wants us at the time.  We have to stop looking all around for a way out and look up.  God doesn't want us to continue trying to fix things that aren't ours to fix.  He doesn't want us to run, either.  He wants to give us exactly what we need, moment to moment.  God wants us to stop, look, listen, and wait with Him.  Sometimes we wait for a little bit, and sometimes we wait a really long time because God's work takes time.  He has plenty to say and do through us, for sure, or we wouldn't be here.   

So, back to the difficult question at hand.  We disappoint and are disappointed, now what?  We have to rejoice in the truth, and know that God is by our side.  And the truth is, our disappointments are stepping stones to God's great blessings for our lives and His glory.  As Paul says,   

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Our disappointments don't define who we are.  God's love for us does.  Regardless of whether we are the ones deeply disappointed or the one who has deeply disappointed those who love us dearly, or maybe it's a little of both, we can't possibly fix it with our own efforts.  But the good news is, God can.  God's love is huge and unconditional and all powerful.  It heals all things; and with Him, blessings are around the corner.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I want to thank you for the disappointments in my life because they are an opportunity to grow in my faith and become more Christ-like.  Lord, I bring my disappointments to You right now.  I want to talk to you about them.  Speak to me, give me direction, hold me in Your arms, and heal my hurt.  Fill and transform the relationships that are affected by these disappointments with Your perfect love so that, in You, my relationships are made new.  I am praying for Your peace that surpasses all understanding.  I need You, Lord, to work these disappointments for Your goodness and glory.  You are my Savior and my Rock.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

May the Good Lord bless You and keep you, today and always,

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