Facing Disappointment

By Peter Amsterdam

June 8, 2013

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In each of our lives there have been times when we’ve felt that bitter sting of disappointment. When it occurs, it’s so hard to bear. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Hope deferred, or disappointment, is really difficult to recover from.

When things don’t turn out as we’d hoped, either career-wise, or financially, in relationships, with our children, with missed opportunities that you were hoping for, it’s so difficult, so disheartening, and you can feel very alone.

It can hurt your faith. You can begin to doubt the Lord’s love and care for you when you don’t get that job that you wanted so much, or your relationship that seemed to be going so well suddenly comes to a painful end, or you have some unexpected setback like failing a grade on an important test, a bad performance review at work, or some funding for a mission project falls through.

In the midst of times like these, the present is not only difficult, but the future seems so bleak as well. You may wonder, “Lord, where are You? Are You aware of my situation? Do You even care?”

And then to make matters even worse, it’s easy to look around and wonder why some people—people who don’t even believe in God—seem to have it so good. It can all seem really mixed up sometimes.

Being in the depths of disappointment can cause worry, stress, and loss of sleep as you toss and turn all night, pondering what’s going to happen next and how you are going to make it. At times like these you desperately hope for some sign, some sort of breakthrough or good news to prove to you that God is watching out for you.

The deferred hope or disappointment can lead to discouragement, depression, and despair. When you’re under that heavy, cold blanket of disappointment, the place to turn is to God, even if at the moment you feel that He’s abandoned you. You may be angry with Him. You might feel neglected or cast off. You might be riddled with questions. Talk to Him. If you’re angry and feel like venting will help you, then vent to Him. You can tell Him how you honestly feel. He won’t be offended. And when you’re in that spiraling whirlpool of disappointment and despair, the place to go to is to Him. Don’t shut Him out. Rather, let Him in and let Him know how you feel, and look to Him for help. Give Him your disappointment and then praise and thank Him for the victory which will come even if you don’t see it or feel it, even if you feel you’ll never get over this disappointment.

Listen to how King David tells God his problems when he was in despair. I’m reading from Psalm 31.

My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends—those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.

I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you.

David then continues on speaking faith and praising God. He says:

Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:10–17, 21–24 NIV).

God loves us. He hears our heartcries, and He has the power to do something about our problems and lacks. He expects us to take our needs, our hardships, our disappointments to Him in prayer and in faith.

There are different ways of reacting to disappointing events. We can say, “Why, Lord? Why me? I don’t deserve this.” Or we can look beyond the present circumstances and trust that He may be working in our lives in ways that we don’t understand. So instead of, “Why me, Lord?” the better response might be, “What next, Lord? What is it that You are doing in my life? What should I do now?” Remember, often when God closes a door He opens a window.

A dear friend of ours was telling Maria and me about her son, who needed to move his large family out of the house that he was renting. He and his wife had decided to buy a house, and they found just what they were looking for. The owner liked them and he seemed very open to receiving their offer. He said that he would like them to make an offer on the house, even though it was clear that they didn't have the full amount that he was expecting. Over the next day they were praying about whether this house was the right one to get, and the Lord showed them that this was the house that He had for them.

No sooner had they made the final decision to get the home than the real estate agent called them on the phone and said that the owners had accepted another offer. Uh! They were crestfallen. What had happened? God had showed them that this was the one, and the owner had virtually said that he would accept their offer, yet he’d accepted one from someone else. Disappointment filled the air.

But the story didn't end there. The owner called a few days later and explained that he thought that the offer he accepted was their offer. Once he realized it wasn’t, he rescinded his acceptance of the other offer and wanted them to officially send their offer, as he wanted to sell it to them. Some other possible deal-breaking events involving the bank arose, which came close to sort of closing the door on the house, but these were eventually worked out and they were able to move into their new home. Doors closed. There was disappointment. But then God opened windows.

Here are some helpful responses and mental attitudes to maintain when things don’t turn out as you had hoped:

  1. Face disappointments head on and in faith. Don’t be afraid of hard times; rather, see them as a challenge. Remember, you often grow the most during difficult times.
  2. Don’t get upset. Don’t start complaining and griping. Don’t develop a self-pitying attitude and verbalize your frustrations to everyone you know. Have patience, and voice faith. God can and often does turn disappointment around for our good.
  3. Keep an attitude of gratitude as well as an attitude of trust. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15 ESV).
  4. Don’t give up. Don’t let your enthusiasm be snuffed out. Keep working towards your goals. As we often say, the greatest darkness is just before the dawn.

Someone recently told me that God had spoken to her on this subject when she cracked open a Chinese fortune cookie and looked at what it said, and it said, “Life is hardest before the summit.” Sometimes it really amazes me how the Lord speaks to us in funny and different ways, like Chinese cookies.

God makes it clear that “In this world we will have tribulation,” which is, of course, also known as troubles and disappointments (John 16:33). But that’s not the end of the story. Sure, there are disappointments in life, but those disappointments aren’t dead ends. The road of our lives keeps moving, and as we travel it, we move beyond our disappointment, our tests, and our trials.

In one of ancient Israel’s most difficult and discouraging times, God said to them, “The plans I have for you [are] to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

The nation of Israel whom God had given the Promised Land to, and whom He said were His people, and whom He set up His temple in which He dwelt and where they were able to worship Him, were all defeated by the kingdom of Babylon. The land was taken away, the temple was destroyed, and the majority of the people were forced to relocate to Babylon. The promises of God seemed to be rescinded due to their sins. They no longer possessed the Promised Land. They were without a temple and they didn’t know how to worship and how to find forgiveness of sins without the temple. They struggled with the question of whether God still loved them. Were they still His people? Their dreams and their faith and their hope were all totally shattered.

During this defeat and disappointment, the prophet Jeremiah wrote them a letter and sent it to Babylon, and he told them what God had to say to them at this time when their faith was in crisis. He told them to carry on with life, to build houses, plant gardens, get married, have children, and that in His time He would deliver them from their situation, that He would bring a change for the better. He didn’t promise that it would happen today, but He did promise that it would happen. He said, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11–13 ESV).

Shattered hopes and dreams are not final destinations. God says He has plans for you, plans for good and not for evil. One Bible version translates it as, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV).

God doesn’t desert us in our times of disappointment. Instead, He’s there. He’s thinking good thoughts of us. He has plans for our future. He wants us to carry on with life and not give up, to have hope for what’s ahead, even if things seem so awful today. The key is to look to Him, to know that He loves and cares for us, that He will carry us into the future. We aren’t meant to stop living, to give up hope, but rather to carry on in faith and trust. He will heal. Things will change. Life will continue on, and there is hope ahead.

It’s good to remember that there are times when something looks like a great defeat, a terrible and permanent loss, which makes you feel you can’t possibly recover it, but often there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. Sometimes God works very mysteriously, in ways that we can’t comprehend.

A lot depends on how we respond to His disappointments. Do we rise to the occasion and fight?—Trusting to see good and blessings from a God who loves us? Or do we wallow in pity and whine? As Rick Warren talked about in The Purpose Driven Life, during times of tribulation, we should “pray fewer ‘Comfort me’ prayers”—you know, the kind, “Lord, help me to feel good” type prayers—“and more ‘Conform me’ prayers.” In other words, “Use this to make me more like You, Jesus.”

Billy Graham said, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘O God, help me.’”

Also, let’s not forget that God might even have some surprises up His sleeves. He may very well be working behind the scenes in ways that you don’t see or understand. So we simply have to trust Him, to know that He knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t

In one of his sermons, Bret Toman told this powerful story:

Ruby Hamilton, a businesswoman in her fifties, was stunned at the loss of her husband of 32 years in a car accident. Her anger and disappointment went deeper than a more typical expression of grief, though. She had become a follower of Christ in her late twenties, but her husband didn't share her newfound interest in spiritual things. Nonetheless, she had set about praying for him fervently and unceasingly, that he would come to know the Lord. One day when she was praying, she felt a wave of peace wash over her, and that still small voice assuring her that her husband would be okay. She eagerly awaited the day when her husband would surrender his life to Jesus. And now, this—he had this untimely death.

What do you do when faith doesn't make sense? When God doesn't seem to be answering or opening doors? Ruby Hamilton stopped living for God.

Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home, and he would never forget the date—May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing his thumb at the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a big, black, sleek Cadillac. But to his surprise, the car stopped.

The passenger door swung open. He ran to the car and he tossed his suitcase in the back and he thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat.

"Going home for keeps?"

"Sure am."

"Well, you're in luck. I’m going to Chicago."

"Uh, not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?"

"I have a business there,” the driver said. “My name is Hamilton."

They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful businessman. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was just 30 minutes from his home, and that it was either now or never.

"Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important." Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ. And then he thanked Roger. He said, "This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me."

Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago, he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton Enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties.

She extended her hand and said, "You knew my husband?"

Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me what day that was?"

"Sure. It was May 7th, five years ago, the day that I was discharged from the army."

"Anything special about that day?" she asked.

He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention about how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. "Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day."

Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed that God would save him."

"Where is your husband, Ruby?"

"He's dead. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never made it home. You see, I thought God had not kept His promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept His word!"[1]

This is a touching reminder that we don’t always see all that God sees. He may very well be answering our prayers in ways that we don’t yet comprehend. Don’t lose faith. God will not fail; He will keep His word. His plan might be different than what we expect, but He does all things well. (See Mark 7:37.)You may not see your answer for some time, as in Ruby’s case it took five years, but nevertheless we should keep our faith and trust in God and not give up. His plans for those who love and follow Him are plans of good and not evil.

Remember:

God loves you.

He’s on your side. He has your best interests at heart.

He will comfort you and draw you close to Him.

He’s working for you, and you can trust Him no matter what, in good times and in bad times.

No one’s more powerful than God, and no one loves you more than God does.

You can fail, I can fail, the whole world can fail, but God never fails.

Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” even in the face of disappointment (John 14:27 ESV).

(Prays:) Lord, we all face disappointment in our lives and oftentimes more than once, and it can feel so defeating, so difficult, so discouraging. It can lead us to despair and lack of hope. But, Lord, whenever we face this disappointment, when we find that our lives aren’t on the path that we planned, or that different things have come up that have changed everything and will change our future, help us not to despair, help us not to be disappointed, but rather to look to You, to know that You are there, that You love us, that You care for us, that You have our best interests at heart.

We may not understand and we may be angry and disappointed and feeling terrible and even questioning You, but Jesus, help us to trust, to know that You are always there. You are in our darkest times, not just when everything is going well, but when things are deeply difficult. Help us to put our trust in You, Jesus. Help us to put our love in Your hands, and our hearts in Your hands, and to know that You will carry us, You will take us through, that You will bring us through this dark time, that the valley of the shadow of death has an entrance but it has an exit; it’s not forever. And if we can hold on to You, we may very well see some beautiful things come out of the things that we think are so ugly and awful today.

Give us faith to trust You, Jesus. We love You. We need You, and I really pray for anyone who is facing these difficult times right now, that You speak to their hearts, that You cause them to look to You, and to realize that You are with them, that You’re holding them in Your arms, that You care for them, that Your thoughts toward them and Your plans toward them are for good and not for evil, that You will bless them and that You will bring them through, in Jesus’ name I pray. Thank You, Lord.

God bless you.


[1] Considerable influence for this message came from John Piper’s “The Spring of Persistent Public Love,” DesiringGod.org. From a sermon by Bret Toman, “Power to Live the Golden Rule,” 1/3/2011.

 

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