Dealing with Disappointment

I’m dealing with a range of emotion right now as I sit down to write. In general my life is really good. I am healthy, my family is flourishing, and I have a good community. I have gainful employment doing meaningful work in the world. I have a solid church family, great in-laws, and friends who love me.

So why do I feel such disappointment?

Don’t get me wrong. All those things are so important to me. If one of those things becomes off-balance or disappears entirely my life would be much less enjoyable. I would immediately have to rearrange all the other priorities of life to backfill the void left by what’s missing. But even knowing that and seeing how blessed I am, why do I feel like so many of my plans go awry?

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel that in spite of all the good things in your life there are a ton of pieces that just aren’t falling into place?

Maybe you haven’t found a spouse yet. You’ve been single for so long, and your heart’s desire is to be married and have a family.

Maybe you didn’t get that promotion you wanted, no, deserved. You work so hard for the company and then they hired someone younger, with less experience, and now you get to train your new boss.

Maybe that business venture you started hasn’t panned out. You had a great idea, and you found some momentum early on, but you just can’t seem to get others to buy in.

It’s amazing how cloudy my life seems when I focus on disappointments. What would otherwise be a beautiful day to be alive turns into a dreary, grey fog.

So what do we Christians do when we’re faced with disappointment? Focusing on it doesn’t seem to help. Disappointment is like quicksand. The more we struggle in it the deeper we sink. We must grab onto a lifeline if we’re going to make it out alive.

Here are two I’ve found.

Life line 1 – God’s timing is better than ours.

If you have served God for any length of time, you have probably come to a point where you either had to trust God or not. Trusting God is a put up or shut up, poop or get off the pot, kind of relationship. You say you serve God. But why serve him if you won’t trust him to make good on his plans?

Ok sure, he’s a little slow in fulfilling those plans. By slow I mean, it feels like nothing is happening. Like waiting for paint to dry or Congress to help someone. Just kidding. Congress never helps anyone.

Watching God work is like watching my kids grow. All I want is for them to get out of this phase or that phase that annoys me, but it’ll be over before I know it. If I haven’t stopped to enjoy them, to take in the process of them growing, I will have missed the greatest joys of parenting.

So it is with God. As I try to rush him to fulfill my destiny, I’m missing the greater blessing he has. We’re made more like Jesus while we wait.

We’re made more like Jesus while we wait. Click To Tweet

Paul says this in Romans chapter 12.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

And this in Romans chapter 8.

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

When we take time to get our minds right and we allow God to do things his way, we get a lifeline thrown to us. We hold onto God’s will and trust that he’s working a good plan out that will cleanse me from sin and make me like Jesus.

Life line 2 – My plans are wrong.

I love the first disciples. I’m so thankful for them. They’re easy targets for those of us who read the New Testament. Hindsight gives us the upper hand, and it’s easy to point at them as buffoons who just didn’t get it. But I’m grateful for them because they made mistakes that I make now.

They were distracted by power. Matthew 20:20-28

They were faithless. Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20, Luke 12:28, 16:10.

They were focused on the wrong things. John 18:10-11

And then there’s me, 2000 years “more advanced”, and I have the same stupid problems.

Some enlightened modern Christian I am! So what if I have to wait for that promotion? Big deal. It’ll give me a chance to learn how to lead by influence instead of title. So what if only a few people signed up for that class I’m teaching? A smaller group is more intimate. Bigger is not always better. So what?

All these carefully crafted plans of mine are really just distractions from the larger plan at work in my life, God’s. When I focus too much on my own thoughts, my own desires, my own inclinations I miss the great gift of God’s perspective.

My plans might intersect with his. The desires of my heart might be righteous and come from a place of godly yearning. But the execution is up to God. The desires of my heart might be righteous and come from a place of godly yearning. But the execution is up to God. Click To TweetDo you want your path, your steps to please God? Then point yourself in his direction and let him make your steps firm.

Psalm 37 says this:

23 Our steps are made firm by the Lord,

    when he delights in our way;

24 though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,

    for the Lord holds us by the hand.

God holds our hands so we won’t fall.

There’s no promise that we won’t fall, only that when we do, we won’t scrape our knees.

What are some ways you have found to deal with disappointment? Please comment below and share your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading!

33 thoughts on “Dealing with Disappointment

  1. I love your comments on this. It’s a nice reminder when we are disappointed that it’s not up to us how plans go. When I am disappointed I try to remind myself that I’m upset about Earthly matters, we’re here just to serve people then move on.

    Your Story Matters.

  2. I am just finished one of my seminary courses that focused on the Book of Job. It was a fantastic course, and I learned so much through the course about a theology of suffering and why a good God allows good people to suffer. God’s speeches in the epilogue are awe-inspiring and profoundly impacted me. I have just come through a winter of suffering and disappointment, my mother passing among some other trials, and God’s speeches, the book and the course helped me to walk through this hard season. When I read God’s speeches it is a great reminder of the amazing, awe-inspiring, omniscient, mighty Creator we serve. It becomes easier for me to trust Him and and know that He’s in control. Thanks for the article.

    1. Yes! Job is an excellent example. I remember studying Rabbi Kushners discussion of Job. It was really moving to discuss suffering as a college student. Now that I’m a grown man I have a, hopefully, wiser approach due to experience. Thanks for sharing and your comments. You’re spot on.

  3. I love your voice. This–If you have served God for any length of time, you have probably come to a point where you either had to trust God or not. Trusting God is a put up or shut up, poop or get off the pot, kind of relationship. You say you serve God. But why serve him if you won’t trust him to make good on his plans?–EXACTLY! Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Thanks, Stephanie. That’s really kind of you. I sort of write to myself. This entry was a way of speaking truth of God’s love and plan for me out loud so I could hear it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. I love this post, Chip. It’s so easy to focus on our disappointments… on the let downs. But I love your two main points. God’s timing is better than ours. Every. Single. Time. Forever and always. And our plans are not always the best plans. That can be hard to admit, but it is so true. There is a freedom in surrendering to His will, that, while not easy, is so worth it.

    1. Thanks, Heather! I appreciate you reading. It’s a hard lesson to learn and equally hard to remember. God is the only one of us who can see clearly. My disappointment is just the way I cling to my own will instead of his.

  5. I struggle with being disappointed – quite often! I have a hard time with “leaving the results up to God.” I rarely think about the journey being the lesson – the work that God has for me. But it seems usually it is. My destination was not His destination.

    I do think that sometimes we can be on the right path and the right timing, and God knows it’s not going to turn out, but let’s us go that way, anyway because He plants to bring beauty from the ashes.

    Also for me, I’ve found many times my disappointments are from my misunderstandings of scripture – or Christian sayings that are a misquote of it. For instance
    “God will not give you more than you can handle” – when the truth is He will not allow you to be TEMPTED beyond what you can handle… big difference. (I Cor 10:13)
    Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I have heard that one so often explained as “Do what God says and He’ll give you everything you want.” but I think now it means if we delight in Him, He will give us the right desires – not every thing we desire.

    I’m sure i have more to learn/unlearn that sets me up for disappointment. One thing I do feel certain of though, is that He is with us and will never leave us.

    1. Wow! Great thoughts, Christina. You’re so right that sometimes God isn’t displeased, necessarily, with our path. He wants us to learn from mistakes, so he lets us go our own way for a while. I’ve definitely experienced that. Then I suddenly come to, like I’ve just thought of something, and I have the brilliant realization that maybe God wanted me to take a different path all along. I’m so glad there’s grace.
      Disappointment isn’t necessarily failure. It could just be not getting my way. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. God’s timing is definitely something I cling to when things aren’t happening in the way or timing I want. I understand feeling disappointed when you’re not entirely sure why you feel that way. Satan is so tricky in that he’ll convince us we aren’t satisfied even when God has given us so much. I try to remember that, too. That my disappointment is not from God. Thanks for this wisdom!

  7. Hi Chip!

    Great blog post topic “Dealing with Disappointment.”

    Thank you for your honesty here; it’s refreshing when a Christian blogger steps up and speaks from his heart.

    Sure, I do feel like that often. There’s so much to be thankful for, yet, there are also many bricks that won’t fit. I agree with you; in situations when we feel under the weather, it’s crucial to trust God.

    Your take on the disciples was enlightening. They set an example of the traps we’ll all face at some point in our life.

    One of the best advice I’ve got about dealing with disappointment is to stop thinking about the past and concentrate on what I can do to get a better future.

    Edna Davidsen

    1. Wow! Thanks, Edna.
      I’m glad you can relate and I’m not the only one. Your comment is spot on: stop thinking about the past. As John Maxwell says-yesterday ended last night. Whether I’m on a high and everything is coming up roses or I’m low and lost in the valley of shadow, God is with me. Thanks for reading and commenting, Edna!

  8. I’m remembering that the destination is so rarely what I thought it would be… Thanks for this reminder to slow down and know that the journey is where I find God daily.

  9. Very enjoyable read Chip. Yeah, I think it usually comes right down to whether we believe that God is for us or not, which I find that most of us need daily remembrances of that.

    1. Thanks, Scott! Why is it so hard to remember that God is for me? I mean, he’s been faithful so many times before? Why would he not provide more than I can even imagine? The struggle of my life. Thanks for commenting. Hopefully you’re better at this than I am.

  10. Congress never helps anyone!! I swear I didn’t miss the entire message of the post but that line was awesome!! Anyway, my brother you have a clear talent for this. I struggled a lot with determining what God’s plan was earlier in life and finding my purpose. I Definitely know now that God is usually teaching me patience and to just trust Him already.

    1. Thanks, man! Don’t you hate these lessons sometimes? Waiting on God to execute the plan is so exhausting. Then he does and we’re always pushing for the next stage. I’m a case study in discontent. I’m glad you read it. Thanks for commenting too.

  11. Something I have learned over the past two years is the importance of time. Time to process all the events of our lives.

    I think we all “know” how important time is, however I got to actually experience it’s importance. I have spent countless hours on long bus rides and long walks and hikes over the last two years and have time just to think without a zillion other things going on. I’ve actually been amazed at how much of a difference it has made.

    Time has let me reflect on the blessings given in this life, time to be still and listen. In this day and age we are pushed to do more, produce more and we forget to be still or simply don’t have time to be still. We focus to much on doing good than we do on being good.

    Now that I have time I feel far less disappointment then I did before. The path for everyone will be different. The desires of my heart I’m finding are on a path that I never imagined I would walk.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. I particularly love what you said–we focus too much on doing good rather than being good. This is so true in my life. In fact, I’ve been convicted of this recently. My personality is such that I love accomplishment and the honor others give me as a result. What I really need is God’s approval for who I am. That is worth more than any accomplishment and is a healing word for any disappointment I may feel. Thanks for sharing and I hope to hear from you again.

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