You are going to be disappointed in life. Your relationships will disappoint you. Your job, your exams, your team, your church. All will disappoint you to some extent. They will dash your hopes and shatter your dreams. Anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, despair, and cynicism will take the place of hope and joy and optimism. If disappointment is so inevitable, how do we recover from it?
First, prepare for it without becoming a nihilistic Eeyore. If you adopt a realistic attitude towards this world, then you will expect a measure of disappointment and not be shaken or swept away when it happens. That’s not defeatism or pessimism; it’s realism. We still rejoice in God’s goodness and people’s kindness but we are also prepared for the change in God’s providence or human relationships.
Share your disappointment. Tell the Lord about what you are experiencing. Be completely honest and transparent. Describe how you are feeling. Or if you can’t find words, bring him your tears and groans and ask him to interpret and treasure them. The Psalms of lament are full of this. While we cast our burdens on the Lord, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), we also ask our fellow believers to share the weight of our disappointment with us (Galatians 6:2).
Remember that the Lord Jesus knew deep disappointment from his days on this earth. His disciples let him down continually. All forsook him, one denied him, and one even betrayed him. He knows the pain and frustration you are experiencing. He can sympathize with you and support you as you reel from the blows (Hebrews 4:15).
Humble submission and acceptance rather than arrogant fighting is the way through this dark valley and into the light. Nothing can be gained by taking vengeance on our disappointers, or by angrily shaking our fist in God’s face. No, we must confess, “Lord, I don’t understand how they could do this or you could allow this. But I’m going to bow before your sovereignty and believe you know best and that this is for my best.” This is not to say that justice must never be pursued when we are wronged; but it is to hand over the administration of justice to God and those he has appointed to this task.
Use disappointment to grow in sanctification and service. In terms of sanctification, use the pain you feel to make you resolve never to inflict this on other people if you can help it. Or maybe look back on your life and think of times you disappointed people and see if you can put it right in a godly way. You can also use disappointment to serve others by ministering to the disappointed all around you with the comfort with which you have been comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Finally, rekindle eternal hope. While earthly hopes may have been dashed, at least for a time, the Christian still has a heavenly hope that no amount of earthly disappointment can take away. Indeed, earthly disappointment can help us to redirect our hopes towards that which is spiritual and eternal. There is a day, an eternal day in the not-to-distant future, when all disappointment will be taken away and when all things will not only be new but will remain new. Every possible source of disappointment will be removed, and all our hopes will be fulfilled.
Real men grow through disappointment.
Avoiding Disappointment Distraction
Dealing with Disappointment in the Church (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
- What are your three greatest disappointments in life and how have they affected you?
- How can this video help you to respond to these disappointments better?
- Who have you disappointed and what can you do about that?