Disappointment

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The dictionary defines disappointment as the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. We’ve all felt it to varying degrees. Some have felt disappointment when they didn’t get the job they wanted and others have been even more disappointed when they did get the job they wanted, but found out it wasn’t what they thought it would be. One women may be disappointed because she didn’t get the man of her dreams, but the one who got him may be even more disappointed because he turned out not to be the man of her dreams but a nightmare!

Life is filled with disappointments. Wives are disappointed with their husbands and husbands are disappointed with their wives. Parents are disappointed with their children’s behavior and children are disappointed because their parents just don’t understand what they are going through. Employees are disappointed with their employer and their work environment, and employers are disappointed in their employee’s work performance. Every day something or someone has the potential to disappoint us.

Many of our disappointments are due to unrealistic hopes and expectations. We set ourselves up for disappointment by presuming we can have something because after all, “I’m a Child of the King!” That used to be a popular teaching back in the early 80’s. I subscribed to that teaching until I learned the hard way that doesn’t always apply to everything we want. I bought a brand-new minivan that came with an enormous payment that I couldn’t afford. I told myself because I am a child of the king, He will make my car payment for me regardless of my income. He didn’t. I struggled about a year to make that car payment before I finally had to sell it at a loss just to get out from under that burden.

TV evangelists tell us to “dream big,” “expect the unexpected,” and “look for the sudden blessings of God.” I certainly believe God can give us surprise blessings. I’ve seen it happen in other’s lives and I’ve experienced it myself. However, those big, unexpected and sudden blessings don’t happen every day. Most of us live ordinary, day to day lives. I’m not saying to be a pessimist and never get your hopes up for something out of the ordinary. Even though “a pessimist is never disappointed,” that’s no way to live. I’ve seen people get their hopes up for something that is ridiculously out of reach. They presume its God’s will to give them that big mansion, that new expensive car, or that high paying job they are in no way qualified for. We assume with enough faith we can have anything we want. When it doesn’t happen like we thought it would, we become disappointed, discouraged and depressed. Something that is not taught often in Christian circles is the principle of stewardship, which is wisely using the resources that God has already given us.

This question may sound harsh, but if we truly believe God is good and is in control of our lives, why should we ever feel disappointed? God tells us through the prophet Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’“(Jer 29:11 NIV). If we don’t get what we want or hope for, maybe God has something else in mind for us. Notice I didn’t say, “something better.” We always hear He has something better for us, and as far as God is concerned, it is something better. However, oftentimes God has something different for us that we may not consider better. When that happens, we have two options: trust that God is working everything for our good and for His purposes, or allow disappointment to spiral us down into disillusionment, discouragement, despair, and depression. Putting our hope and trust in the goodness of God alleviates a lot of disappointment. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom 5:5 NLT).

Much of our disappointment is with people whom we truly love. We only want what’s best for them. We become disappointed when we don’t see positive changes in their lives as fast as we would like, or maybe not at all. One thing we must always remember; ever individual has stewardship of their own lives. Our job is to pray for those individuals, do whatever we can to encourage them, and then trust God with the results. We are not responsible for their happiness. I’ve seen God do amazing things with people who I honestly gave up all hope for any change. That’s His specialty! He can reach deep into someone’s heart and gently lead them into lasting and sometimes even dramatic change. Most of the time we need to just step back and give Him room to work!

It’s not a lack of faith to say, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” After all, that was Jesus’ prayer. James exhorted us to keep our plans flexible. “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15 NIV).

Disappointment may be the first place the bus stops after a letdown, but we don’t have to live there. God wants us to trust Him and allow him to close one door and open another. The old song cleverly said, “When God closes the door, look for a window.” There’s certainly some truth to that, but I believe it’s better to say, “Lord, I still trust you even though things didn’t go my way. If you want to open a door, a window, or even a rooftop (see Mark 2:4), I’ll follow you. Your plans and your ways are wiser than mine. My hope and confidence is in you Lord.”

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverb 3:5-6 NKJV).

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What About Him?

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Jesus said to Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:18-22 NIV).

Jesus informed Peter that he would suffer and die for the sake of the kingdom of God. What did Peter do when he heard this somber news? He looked at John and asked Jesus, “What about him?” In other words, “Will John suffer like me?” We’re no different. When hit with problems, trials and tribulations, we often look at other’s seemingly trouble free lives and wonder why they’re not suffering as much as we are (and deep down wishing they were). Why are they enjoying perfect health when I feel pain almost every day? Why do they have so much money when I can barely make ends meet? Why is their marriage so happy when mine is struggling to survive? Why are their kids so perfect? Why is their life so easy when mine is so hard?

First of all, we really don’t know what’s going on below the surface of other people’s lives. Have you ever been surprised to learn someone who looked like the picture of health was suffering or even dying from a disease? Ever been utterly shocked to find out the couple you thought were so perfectly happy together got a divorce? Have you ever been stunned (and secretly a little happy) to hear that someone else’s kids are not as wonderful as you thought they were? What about when the person with that great job you wished you had suddenly finds themselves unemployed? Despite all the Facebook pictures of families having wonderful vacations, it’s going to rain somewhere at some time. No one’s life is a Disneyworld adventure all the time.

Next, if we look at those less fortunate than us, our hearts become grateful for all we have. After visiting a man who could no longer move because of having a stroke, I felt extremely thankful for my health. As I later walked through Walmart, I whispered thanks to God for two working legs, arms, eyes and ears. My chronic neck pain didn’t seem so bad after seeing that man unable to move from his wheel chair. When I hear about those who have lost their job and struggling to find a new one, it makes me thankful even while sitting in traffic on a Monday morning headed to work. When I drive in the blighted areas of town where people live in severally dilapidated houses, I suddenly become thankful for my little house on my relatively quiet street. All we need to do is take a hard look around us and we will realize how truly fortunate we are.

Jesus told Peter, “Follow me!” But he no sooner said it, and Peter looked at John (known as “The Beloved”) and asked, “Lord, what about him?” Peter thought, sure I’m going to suffer but old “Mr. Beloved” is going to get off easy! John, the beloved did not get off easy. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs says that John was thrown into a large pot of boiling oil and they tried to make fried apostle stew! That didn’t work, so he was banished to the island of Patmos. During this time John wrote the book of Revelation. He was later released and died a very old man in what is now known as Turkey.  John didn’t die a violent death, but he certainly suffered for his faith in Christ.

Yes, we are collectively the body of Christ, but we all have our individual calling and spiritual walk with Jesus. We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in comparing our lives with other’s lives who seem to have it all together. Jesus is telling us the same thing he told Peter when we ask, “Lord, what about them?” He’s replying to us, “What is that to you? You must follow me.” Let’s daily keep our focus only on Jesus. “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NKJV).