"I know it was a disappointment and you are well acquainted with those." The words from a friend's message on Facebook stung, but they are true. The fact is I have become acquainted with disappointment these last few years. My family lost a lot-- our home, our credit rating, many friends, a business, financial security, a baby, and many other things. I remember one particularly painful day when my husband and I pawned our wedding rings to buy food and diapers for the kids. I have grown so used to disappointment that I did not recognize this one until my friend pointed it out.
Disappointments can wear on a person after a while if not dealt with. Let's face it, the world is full of disappointment. Every single person will eventually face it at one time or another. However, it is not the disappointment that leads to demise, but how it is dealt with that matters.
I wish I could say that I have always dealt with disappointment in the right way, but I haven't. I have stumbled and fallen, but I serve a gracious, loving heavenly father who faithfully guides me back to the right path. As I have followed along in this journey I have learned a few things.
REACTING VS. RESPONDING
Whenever we face disappointment we have a choice to react or respond. When we react we act without considering what we should be ding. We don't reason, consider, or pray about what to do. Instead we act first and consider later. Reacting lets our emotions dictate our choices as opposed to our rational thinking.
Responding takes an act of the will (self-control) to not act right away. When responding it is good to step back to look at the facts, consider the pros and cons, and pray about the situation. I have found that using scripture helps me guide my responses. One of my favorite scriptures to use when screening my responses is the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians. Will this action promote love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? If the answer is no then I typically choose another response. This has become a sort of litmus test for me when choosing responses. Whatever ways you choose to go about the process of considering how to respond if you let the Lord lead he will guide you to the correct response. Typically when I make a mistake it is because I reacted when I should have responded.
One lesson I have learned the hard way is to keep in perspective that there are some things people can not do for us that only God can. I did not realize I was making this mistake until the Lord led me through some trials that revealed this sin to me. We need to remember that God is the source of everything we need. One of the reasons I think it is so easy to start expecting our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord to do things in our lives that only the God can do is because of how God uses people to minister in our lives. We are supposed to pray for each other, encourage one another, be supportive of each other, as well as comfort one another. The problem occurs when we start depending on our fellow Christians more than on the Lord. This can happen so subtly that one does not even realize. Staying connected to the Lord and allowing him to convict your heart is a good way to guard against this.
This is important to remember because I have seen many Christians who appeared to be committed fall away from the Lord after being disappointed by others in the church. I have seen it time and time again. A believer goes to others in the church without ever talking to the Lord about their situation. When those fellow church members can't provide what the believer thinks he needs then he moves on to another church member, and on to another until this individual decides there is something wrong with Christians and the church then proceeds to fall away from the Lord. Reality is that every single one of us is a fallen, frail human being who has no hope without the grace of our Lord Jesus. We set ourselves up for great disappointment when we look to frail humans to do what only God can do.
Scripture tells us in Philippians 2:4 to look out for not only our own needs, but the needs of others as well. This is in stark contrast to our what's-in-it-for-me culture. One of the dangers of this way of thinking is that one gets so focused on self that we don't notice what is going on in the lives of others. Then when disappointment is added to the mix we become so focused on our own pain and start feeling sorry for ourselves. Self-pity is highly toxic in this life. Father Martin during one of his chalk talks that self-pity is a luxury the alcoholic can ill afford. This is true not just for the alcoholic living in recovery but also for the rest of us as well. Our disappointments are deepened when we practice self pity in our lives.We tend to shut others out, become lonely, and isolate ourselves. This becomes a downward spiral that leads only to trouble.
Philippians 2:4 offers the perfect solution because it forces us to look at those around us. It breaks the isolation and leads to God's design where we mutually minister to each other. As we mutually minister to each other and look to God as our source, he brings the healing we long for.
We also need to forgive those we view as responsible for our disappointments. Forgiveness is an accounting issue. It means to erase a debt from the books. When it comes to disappointment it is an emotional accounting issue. Disappointment causes pain. When we experience pain we often feel someone is to blame for our pain. There is then a tendency to decide that the person owes us something. This is simply human nature. When we forgive we make a conscious choice to let go of the "debt".
There are some who believe that this takes away all the pain. This has not been my experience. One of my friends said this about forgiveness. When forgiveness is needed there are two issues-- an insult and an injury. Forgiveness takes care of the insult, but the injury can not be dealt with until the insult is forgiven.
If forgiveness does not take away the pain, then what do we do with the pain after forgiving? It seems sometimes in the church we are afraid of this question. At least that is the conclusion I come to based on some of the answers I have recieved when asking. Often it seems we are afraid of emotions in the church. I am not sure why that is. God made us, he made emotions, and he made us emotional creatures.
Jesus openly shared his emotions at the Garden of Gethsemane. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Mark 14:34)." A little further down the passage and we see Jesus crying out to God the Father sharing his emotions. If it is okay for Jesus to experience and express his emotions then what is wrong with us sharing out emotions? Are we better equipped to deal with emotions than Christ? I should say not. We are being prideful when we adapt the attitude that we should not experience emotions (particularly negative ones). Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. If it was okay for Jesus to share his emotions then it is okay for us as people who are 100% human and 0% God to share our emotions. Since we are to model our lives after Jesus, then it is fitting for us to pour out our emotions to God.
At the feet of Jesus is the only place we will find healing for our emotions. One thing I have learned is that God is bigger than anything I am dealing with. When it comes to pain we need to face it, let ourselves feel it, then tell God about it. After that we need to trust him to provide healing and solutions to the situations we face.
God sees our pain, sees all that we need and sees how it all fits into the big picture. His compassion does not end. Mine does, but his doesn't. He is there with us and does not leave us in the midst of our pain. Lamentations 3:22-26 says, "Because of the Lord's great love for us we are not consumed, vor his compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait patiently for him. Isaiah also says, "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him it is good to wait for him." It is good to wait for the salvation of the Lord.
If we allow the pain to come and lean into the Lord, he sees exactly what we need provides comfort and healing and wisdom. We can trust that God is faithful and working everything out for our good (Romans 8:28). God has good plans for us and he will work those plans out (Jeremiah 29:11) He will restore you. Sometimes it happens quickly, but more often his restoration is a process that happens over time. You can trust him to complete his good works (Philippians 1:6).
While going through the healing process it helps to set our minds on Christ. He will bring peace in the midst of pain if we believe and trust in him. Setting our minds on Christ is the last thing our emotions want us to do. If we want to experience the peace that passes all understanding(Philippians 4:4-7) then we must make a conscious choice to trust the Lord. Isaiah 26: 3 says, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you." We must train our minds to trust in the Lord (Romans 8:1-2).
The Lord is with us when we go through disappointment. Scripture says he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Isaiah also says we are engraved on the palms or his hands and our walls are ever before him (Isaiah 49:16). We are never for even a second out of his sight so we can never get away from his love and protection. Scripture also has another promise, "A bruised read he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (Isaiah 42:3). We can trust God when we are afraid or have doubts. We need to run to him, sit on his lap, and experience his love and comfort because he has promised to be there.
One of my favorite passes of scripture is found in Psalms 139. I this passage it says, "All the days ordained for me were written before one of them came to be." The Lord know the beginning from the end (as well as all points in between). He is not surprised by our disappointments. He has a plan for our lives and often uses disappointment to accomplish his purposes. Sometimes he takes our disappointment and turns it into something better then we were anticipating in the first place. Other times our disappointment is his way of protecting us from something. We just don't know and God is not obligated to tell us. Therefore, wince God's character is trustworthy we need to trust God with our disappointments.
If we choose to run to the open arms of our loving heavenly father in the midst of our disappointment, then we will find comfort, hope, and healing. The choice is yours. However, for me it is summed up best in Joshua 24:15, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" even in the midst of disappointment.