It’s hard to go a week—or even a day—without feeling some degree of disappointment. Your well-laid plans can get hijacked by more urgent matters. A friend might bail on you. You might bump into the real limits of your time and energy. People you love might fail to behave in a loving matter.
And it all feels disappointing.
The spectrum of things that disappoint us is vast and varied. Sometimes we face minor discouragements from which we can bounce back quickly. Oh no, a new blemish on my face the day of our family photos! But other times, the weight of the letdown is crushing; the hurt has been on repeat and the pain is compounding. Another event that I didn’t get invited to, another negative pregnancy test, another round of chemo.
Disappointment knocks the wind out of us, threatens to set us off course, and becomes fertile soil for bitterness to take root. How could it not? As believers, we are called to run our race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1) and abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13), but how do you do that when you feel like you’ve already tried really hard? How do you do that when you feel like you were faithful and persevering and yet the outcome was unjust, unfair, and undeserved.
Your feelings aren’t unwarranted. Sometimes, we reflexively try to dismiss our feelings of disappointment by talking ourselves out of them, because it could always be worse, right? But that is only a temporary solution to real hurt. Real disappointment comes with real feelings, so instead of trying to talk ourselves into a better mood or mindset, here are a few truths from God’s Word that offer a better option.
We do not absorb the loss.
This is another common reflex. In the face of disappointment, we can internalize the hurt, insulate or isolate the pain, and force ourselves to carry on. In doing so, we are making the solution more of us, rather than appealing to the God who says he calls us by name and walks with us through water and fire so we won’t be overwhelmed or consumed (Isaiah 43). This is better than self-help, friend; our Sovereign God can help. Don’t absorb the loss and hurt of disappointment; appeal to the One who promises to meet you in and through it.
We do not lose heart.
When your disappointment is a recurring reality (maybe you’ve felt overlooked or unseen for years, or the people you have love have continually let you down), the risk of becoming calloused and losing heart becomes a real danger. The danger of trading your heart of flesh in for an unfeeling heart of stone is real. It’s almost like Paul knew we would feel this way when God inspired his words to the church at Corinth. Paul writes:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Those words are both a gentle and bold reminder; a perspective shift in the midst of real feelings. God is writing a bigger story, preparing us for eternity day by day. That is rich encouragement!
We boldly draw near.
One of our greatest temptations in disappointment is a sense of loneliness—a sense that no one really sees or understands what we are feeling. But Scripture gives us great comfort here, as well. Hebrews 4:15 says, “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.” That verse blows me away every time! Jesus has been tempted in every respect, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and he totally and completely understands it. Therefore, the author continues: “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.” His sympathy for us becomes an invitation to draw near, receive mercy, find grace.
This world is ripe for disappointment. We will be disappointed by our friends, family, church, children, marriage, motherhood, people, politics…basically any realm where imperfect people interact in an imperfect world will prove to be disappointing at times. But we can choose how we respond. We can do the hard work of training our hearts and minds to align with Christ. We can see hard hurts as an invitation to process with a Sovereign God who understands, and we can boldly draw near to the One who is grace, knowing we will find mercy and grace when we need it most.
Living it Out
- Take some time to read through Isaiah 43:1-7. In the first verse, we are commanded not to fear. Why? (Hint: read the second half of verse one.)
- Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 slowly. There is a lot there! What is the first command? How is our inner self being renewed? What is the purpose of our current afflictions? Where should we be looking? How might this relate to any current disappointment you are feeling?
- How do you tend to respond when you feel disappointed? Do you replay the situation over and over in your head? Do dream up retaliation or a whip smart replay to the person who may have offended you? Do you sulk? All of these reactions are normal, but God has given us a better model in his son Jesus Christ.
- Read Hebrews 4:14-16. What can we learn about Jesus here? What invitation is extended to us in verse 16? Make space to draw near to him today.
Image Credit: Emilee Carpenter