Dealing with Disappointment

What is your disappointment? It looks different for everyone…it is deeply personal. Maybe for some, it describes an unmet need, a missed opportunity,…a loss. Some disappointments cut deeply, become hard to move through…things that settle deep in the spirit, festering… leaving holes in beating hearts. Disappointments like these rob the heart fibers of joy. Disappointments left untended, create bitter roots that reach deep…souring the soul and poisoning the body.

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Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy;
without holiness, no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one misses that grace of God and
that no bitter root grows up
to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:14-16)

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I have felt that kind of life-threatening disappointment. The kind that will suck the very breath from your lungs. Some situations feel unresolvable… the unreasonable requests to keep working, keep trusting, keep pursuing. The God-breathed invitation to stay with something hard and to see a situation through the other side. The ask that comes from outside to climb farther to the other side of the looming mountain.

My heart sometimes screams that the climb is too hard and the terrain is too exhausting. The journey seems impossible.

What is your mountain? A failing marriage…children running from home or faith…a body broken with sickness…a heart crushed with grief? Betrayal from a friend?

Were you sold the same story as I? This fantasy pitched as the Christian life experience?  This Christian expectation…to marry a Christian from a good family, together build a stable life and fill your home with a healthy brood of little ones. The fantasy children would grow up to be life followers of Jesus…young men and women who are respectful of others and the world around them, becoming “good” humans who walk out the rest of their days doing “good” things. And because we start out desiring to serve and honour the Lord, we will be protected from the world. Life will be lovely…without blemish or defect.

Oh wait…that describes Jesus, the perfect lamb of God…not the promise for my life…not the promises for any life. Our life will be messy. Our lives take place among the brokenness in the world. Brokenness around us…brokenness living within us. We live among the weeds. 

And what happens when life doesn’t happen like the fantasy? What happens when words tear down rather than build up? Or lack of words leave the heart abandoned and the person lonely?   What happens when the perfect Christian life crumbles all around crippling the story with sudden force leaving the body breathless? Or the grief sets in more subtly, like a dripping faucet…a yearly dribble leaving the vessel empty and parched.  What happens when you just stop because nothing seems to satisfy the ache any longer? What then? What happens to our God story then?

What happens when we feel empty. What happens when we honestly feel empty?  I know this kind of “honest emptiness.” The dull, lonely heartache. It doesn’t scare me any longer.  I can turn and look at the emptiness acknowledging it exists. Entering into the pain begins the healing.

God has given me a gift-  I feel deeply. I feel for people who carry pain with every breath… every waking moment. Those who need to wake up each morning to the same dull ache. I feel for marriages that are falling apart, children who get lost, sickness that eats away at wholeness and betrayals from friends.  I don’t ignore feelings, but I have learned not to let my fleeting feelings rule and reign my thoughts about a current circumstance. Feelings change, and while God has given me an entire range of emotional experience to explore, this freedom can bring great joy and excruciating heartache.

I have learned I can be “honestly empty” but not completely abandoned. The weeping and wailing at night can be turned into morning dancing.  I have access to heavenly resources. I am not without hope. I trust in the Word of life not in my circumstances. My heart cries out…don’t stay stuck, keep moving.

He knows the mountains before us…the ones that stand in our way. He knows our weakness, our mistakes, and our tendencies to grumble about the effort it takes to keep climbing. Often, when I turn towards the emptiness and the lack within me to keep climbing the mountain, I experience His nearness. He always shows up in the valley.

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Though the fig tree should not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will be joyful in God my Saviour. 
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
He enables me to go on to the heights  (Habakkuk 3:17- 19).

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My hope is to resurrect the dreams that God wants to breathe life into and resist the temptation to stay stuck in disappointment.

This is my prayer: Even though the mountain looms before me, I see you, Jesus. I see you through the fog and the dreariness. I lift my eyes up to where my help comes from. I can rely on this: that you, Jesus, are not far but near. I am never alone. And when you begin a good work, you finish the job. You have given me everything I need for life and godliness. Even when the circumstances may seem hopeless, yet I will praise you. 

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