Disappointment comes in many different flavors, and none of them taste good.
Do you remember a time in your childhood when you had gone on and on for months about that certain present that you wanted for Christmas? You had built your hopes up so high; you were absolutely certain that you were getting that gift. Then on Christmas morning you ran down the stairs with excitement and expectancy. But when the last gift was opened your heart sank as the realization set in: you weren’t getting the one thing you really wanted. Gifts that were superior didn’t matter. An abundance of gifts didn’t matter. You experienced disappointment.
Or perhaps there was a trip you were looking forward to. You had built this trip up in your mind to the point of ecstasy. But then the car broke down. Or it rained. Or you drank the water and spent the entire time in the bathroom. Or maybe everything went perfectly smoothly and it was a good time that just couldn’t live up to your expectations.
Maybe you experienced disappointment in someone else. You had dreamed of a date with so-and-so, set her on a pedestal. Then you finally got that date! As the days drew near all of your dreams were finally coming true. But then, maybe, she had poor table manners, or only cared to talk about herself. Maybe she spent the whole date bad-mouthing your best friend. Disappointment.
I remember one particular time in my life when I was disappointed with God. Our military family was on the move once again, this time from Washington State to Georgia. We would stop for a visit with family in our hometown in Wisconsin. Along the way my sister broke out with chickenpox. While I had not yet been exposed to any Charismatic/Pentecostal teachings, and knew absolutely nothing about whether God still heals today (He does!), I found myself earnestly praying that God would prevent me from getting the chickenpox. I told the Lord that if I were in His shoes and could help Him as easily as He could help me, I would! During the next week or two I rarely went an hour without praying that God would keep me safe from the virus. Then one night when we had stopped to visit friends in North Carolina I developed the rash. I can’t tell you how desperately disappointed I was.
At some level I’m sure we all understand that disappointment is a part of life. If effects the poor and the rich, the optimists and the pessimists, the faithful and the faithless. No one is immune.
A lot of people would argue that we should never set our expectations too high, because it only leads to disappointment. I understand this position, and have held it myself at times. But lowering your expectations also lowers your joy. Things don’t always go wrong. If we lower our expectations we are essentially walking through life expecting bad things. And if we expect bad things we are rarely disappointed. If we spend our energy looking, instead, for good things, we will find good things. And those good things feed our joy rather than our disappointment.
You’ve heard it before. Count your blessings. Live a life of gratitude. In our high-tech, Western society it’s easy to forget about those who are less fortunate. Homeless. Destitute. Without access to clean water or proper nutrition. Devastated by curable diseases, but lacking the medicine. Sometimes it’s good to remember that it very easily could be worse. MarketWatch says that most Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness. Disappointment fades in light of how much better off we are than some.
It is also important to understand that God is God and you are not. When we are disappointed with some outcome, we can take comfort in the fact that perhaps He kept some unforeseen circumstance from happening that would have been far worse than our disappointment. It is not usually so obvious, but we’ve all seen news items where someone was bumped from a flight that ultimately went down. On “The Day the Music Died,” Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson lost their lives in a plane crash. Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup, two members of Buddy Holly’s band were supposed to be on that plane. Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, who had the flu, and Tommy Allsup lost a coin toss that placed Richie Valens on the plane (Information from Wikipedia). Given the cold, horrible travel conditions that these artists faced on the bus, they must have been very disappointed to miss out on the plane ride. Until they weren’t. God wants good things for us, but sometimes the route we take on the way to “good” brings us through places we’d rather not be. But we can trust God!
You will be disappointed; it’s inevitable. People will let you down. Circumstances will defeat your most perfectly laid plans. God may not answer you in the way you desire. But by trusting that He has your back, counting your blessings, and looking for good in every situation, you can find peace in place of disappointment.
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