Being Disappointed to the Glory of God
Disappointment is a part of all of our lives. Perhaps you’ve experienced it to varying degrees even this week. So what do we do in our disappointment? How can we bless the LORD through it? And by the way, I have in mind any level of disappointment. It might be as big as having your entire life’s plan turned around by some turn of events, or it might be as small as getting snowed in and having to miss your friend’s basketball game that you had planned to attend. That said, here are a couple of thoughts.
1. Don’t Ignore It
Don’t pretend that the disappointment doesn’t exist. Many people deal with disappointment by denying it. They put on a good face, pretending that nothing is wrong. However, that’s not dealing with anything; that’s merely ignoring reality. It is unhealthy to keep bitterness inside of you. Hebrews 12.15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble…” We don’t want a root of bitterness in us. Sinful roots always lead to much deeper destruction.
Ignoring disappointment often leads us to try to cover it up by doing other things to distract us. We don’t want to think about it, so we check Facebook over and over again, or go to the fridge and over eat, or put in a long movie, or sleep… and the list goes on. We do anything we can to avoid pain, or at least to give ourselves the illusion that we’re not really in pain, but covering up our pain is really just another way to ignore it, and it is equally as unhealthy as denial.
2. Process Your Grief
Before we dump our grief at the foot of the cross, we have to get to the foot of the cross. And we have to bear our disappointment along the way. Many people think that holding on to sadness and disappointment for a season is unacceptable, especially for believers. That depends, though, on how you’re dealing with it. Are you harboring bitterness, anger or discontentment in your heart? That’s unhealthy. Don’t do that. But you must process exactly what you’re surrendering to Jesus as you come to Him.
Isaiah 53 talks about Jesus “bearing our griefs” and “carrying our sorrows.” The clear implication from that is that grief and sorrow are burdensome things. You’re surrendering a burden to Jesus. You can’t just stand in one place holding on to that burden, or you’ll be overtaken by bitterness. You’re carrying it to the cross; and as you walk there, both arms fully embracing all of the pain and loss and confusion that is represented by that burden, you ought to process everything that is in it. Identify what you wanted, what you lost, what you were hoping in, how you were let down, what you’re afraid of. Let yourself feel the weight of the details for a time. That way, when you get to the cross, you will know exactly what it is you’re laying there, and you’ll be able to pray detailed prayers of surrender to Jesus, instead of vague, confused prayers. Further, processing your grief in this way will not allow bitterness to stay in your heart. The goal is to give 100% of your burden to Jesus, so that no root of bitterness remains in your heart due to disappointments left untreated. Also, consider asking yourself “What is the worst thing that might happen to me as a result of ______?” Upon reflection, you’ll likely find that however you answered that question isn’t as bad as you previously thought.
Once you’ve come to terms with exactly why you’re disappointed, you can find solutions to your specific, concrete struggles in the gospel. You can bank on certain promises of God that you might not have otherwise considered. The more deeply you process your pain on your way to the cross, the more sweetly the gospel can minister to your soul as you give your burden to Jesus.
3. Give it to Jesus
Spend time in the Scriptures. Pray a lot. Give God your “brain dump.” Express your hurt to Him. The Psalmists did that. He knows everything that’s in your heart, anyway. He’s ready and willing to help you. Be as honest as possible, but be hopeful. Arm yourself with specific promises of God, and let them shape your prayers, like the Psalmists did (“Because of your steadfast love… do such and such.” etc.). Ask His Holy Spirit to guide you to specific gospel promises in which you particularly need to trust. Commit to no longer dwelling on the pain of disappointment, but the hope of Jesus instead. That won’t be easy, but it is an important part of the process.
Jesus bore your griefs and carried your sorrows so that you might have a place to take your griefs and sorrows; namely, the cross. He doesn’t want you to ignore or mask your pain. He wants you to deal with it. And by the way, walking through this process will not be pain-free. It might be a very long time before you are free of the pain. Feeling the weight of deep disappointment is a natural part of human experience, but there is more. There is hope: Jesus’ hope. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of disappointment, but don’t let disappointment reign in you. Do something with it. Take it somewhere.