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Overcoming Major Disappointments


Disappointed

By Dennis Pollock

When I was a child there was one man in our church who stood out above all the rest, at least from a kid’s perspective. In those ancient days, adult males didn’t relate to children much; we kids were to be “seen and not heard.” But this man, named Bill, was different. He seemed to enjoy being around kids. He had a great sense of humor and he had the ability to relate to children in a way very few adults could. In his younger years he would have made a great youth leader. He wasn’t silly or goofy; he was just funny and likeable.

I never knew all the details, but Bill had an accident while at work, which forced him to quit his job. His company offered him no compensation, and without the ability to work he was not in a good situation. He initiated some type of lawsuit to attempt to force his former employer to provide him a monthly allowance so that he could continue to pay his bills and live out his days comfortably. By this time, I was a teen and I can remember him talking to me about it. He seemed certain he would win his lawsuit and his life would be just fine after that. Most men would not be nearly so open about their financial issues, but that was Bill. He was good-hearted, talkative, and his life was an open book.

It took some time for the lawsuit to run its course, but in the end the judge ruled in favor of the employer. Bill was crushed. All his hopes of financial stability through a generous settlement were dashed. It was too much for this decent, friendly, outgoing man. One day he and his wife got into a car, attached a hose to the exhaust pipe, ran the hose into the car, and sat in the noxious vehicle waiting for their lives to end. It didn’t happen. Someone happened to come into their garage and saved them before death could overtake them. The action added many decades to the life of Bill’s wife. But not to Bill. The despondent man tried once again to kill himself not long afterwards, this time by himself, and this time he did not fail. A good man was dead by his own hand as a result of crushing disappointment and despair.

Appointment: Cancelled

The word disappointment is a compound word – it comes from the two words, appointment and dis. An appointment is an event which we fully expect in our future. The prefix “dis” negates whatever follows it. So a dis-appointment is the cancelling of a future event. We expected it, we wanted it to happen, we dreamed about it happening, we talked to others about how great it would be for us when it did happen – and then it didn’t happen at all. Our appointment got dissed, cancelled, annulled.

Disappointment would not be a factor if we were not such dreamers and hopers. If we could be entirely dispassionate about our futures, and go through life singing Que Sera, Sera (and really mean it) we would not know what disappointment is. Just go with the flow, let life happen, ride the current of whatever circumstances come our way without resistance, without any expectations, and with a calm, emotionless attitude. If we could live like that we wouldn’t know what it is to be crushed and have our hopes bitterly dashed to such a degree that life loses all its pleasure.

But human beings are simply not that way. We are incorrigible hopers and dreamers. It is wired deeply within our nature to eagerly look forward to positive future events, to dream, to plan, to discuss our hopes with others, to constantly look forward and even expect great things in the days to come. Our life may not be too much fun in the present, but one of these days our ship will come in, and all our wildest dreams will be fulfilled.

Christian Hope

As Christians we take this a step further. Jesus has told us to ask, and we’ll receive, to seek and we will find. He has declared that if we have even mustard-seed-sized faith, we can move mountains and that whatever we ask in prayer, believing, we will receive. Most of us take this to mean that when we are praying for a positive outcome, not only should we expect that it will happen, but we have no business even having a doubt about it. After all, is not doubt the opposite of faith?

And yet, with all the prayer promises in the Bible, there are no people, Christian or otherwise, who have not known some disappointments, often very deep and bitter disappointments. Despite all our prayers, and confessions of the Scriptures, and hopes, and maybe even fasting, life didn’t go the way we wanted it. Sometimes it went the very opposite way. And sometimes, as with Job, we must say, “That which I greatly feared has come upon me.”

Surviving major disappointments and even growing through them is a result of several factors. First, we must have a genuine and solid walk with God. This does not guarantee we will never be disappointed, but it does mean that we will be able to draw from His strength and grace during those crushing days when we first understand that the thing for which we have longed and prayed is simply not going to happen. When the hurricane of tragedy and loss come slamming onto our personal shores, it is no time to try to learn a few things about God. As we make it our practice to enjoy His presence during the warm, sunny days, we will be able to find His comforts and grace to endure when dark clouds cover our sky and gale-force winds threaten to blow away everything we count precious.

God is God

Another factor or insight which gives us victory in the midst of dashed hopes is recognizing that God is God, and we are not. He is a lot smarter than us, bigger than us, and wiser than us. And since we are finite, spiritually dull, and puny there will inevitably be times when His plan for our lives and our plans and hopes for our lives simply do not match – in fact they will sometimes be in direct opposition. And if such is the case it won’t matter how much we pray or fast or confess the promises of God, we will never persuade our Heavenly Father to see things our way. We may be able to move mountains by our faith, but we will find that the mountains that move the easiest are the ones God wants moved. Try moving a mountain God has determined should stay in its place, and you’ll strain yourself for sure, and the mountain will not move even an inch. John writes: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). The implication seems to be that if we ask for things that are not according to God’s will, He does not hear us!

When we find that God may be entirely uninterested in doing things according to our preferences, it is time to employ an attitude of submission. We find this beautifully portrayed in the story of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king of Babylon threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace unless they were willing to bow down to the image/idol which he had built. The young men told the king:

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods… (Daniel 3:17, 18).

“But if not…”

I cannot help but feel that the most powerful words in this declaration of faith are those three little words: “but if not…” They essentially told the king: “Go ahead and throw us into the fire – God can deliver us. But even if He doesn’t we still are not about to worship your image!” These young men had no death wish. Their great hope was that God would deliver them, and they knew full well that He could do just that. But even if He chose not to, it would make no difference. They would rather die in the fire than live and become idol worshippers.

We, too, will sometimes need to look at the worst-case scenario – what if God chooses an entirely different path than the one we are so desperately seeking? And like the three young men, we need to be able and willing to say: “Our God can deliver us, come through for us, and answer us with a mighty hand. But if not, we will still serve Him, still love Him, still trust Him, and still abide in our Lord Jesus. That will never change!

Checklist

In my own life I have certainly faced my share of disappointments. Despite my praying, fasting, hoping, dreaming, and reminding God of His promises, sometimes God throws me a curve and allows an outcome that I would never have chosen. In such cases I have created a sort of checklist, not one on paper but in my mind. This checklist is comprised of various questions I ask and then answer. Here are some of the questions:

1. Is God still on His throne? The answer to that question never varies. Of course He is! He has not relinquished control of the universe and of my life to anyone. He still rules and reigns, and controls all things. And this is very good news. This means I don’t have anything to worry about. God is still God; He has not abdicated His throne, and therefore all is well with the world and all is well with me.

2. Are God’s promises of protection and provision for His children still valid? Are they still in the Bible? Once again, the answer is a great big fat yes! If you don’t believe that, when you are going through a difficult situation, open your Bible and check it out. See if all those wonderful promises that declare God will always take care of us have somehow evaporated, as though written with disappearing ink. You will find that they are all still there, just exactly where they were before. Nothing in God’s word has changed. This, too, is wonderful news! Although we may not be provided for in the manner for which we were praying, we will most definitely receive God’s provision. He may just want to do it somewhat differently from the way we imagined He would. But He will provide, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives. All the promises of God are yes to us through Jesus Christ.

3. Am I still saved? Am I still God’s child? Once again, the answer is yes. I am still forgiven, I am still accepted, I am still justified. My future is still as bright as the noonday sun. As His child I have the privilege of approaching my Father in prayer, of knowing I am loved, and the security of recognizing that I will never be given a rock when I ask for bread, or a snake when I ask for fish.

“Why Should I Be Discouraged?

In short, when it comes to the things most important, nothing has fundamentally changed. God is on His throne? – check! God’s promises to take care of me are still there and still valid? – check. I am still a child of God and He is still my Heavenly Father? – check. Then why should I be so downcast? Maybe things didn’t go the way I hoped and prayed they would – but my Father is too good to leave me in a place of desperation. God is extremely creative, and if He doesn’t accept my recommended plan of action, it is certain He has a different plan which is far superior to anything I could ask or imagine. Let’s just see how He will do it!

Sometimes our hopes do fail us, and we face that ugly monster of disappointment. Don’t be too surprised. Occasional disappointments are built into the nature of human existence, and no one is exempt. But the one hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ. The Bible declares that we have been born again “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21).

 

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