When Disappointment Comes
I’m not talking about the kind of disappointment that comes and goes within a few hours. I’m talking about the kind that’s deep, deep in the heart. So deep that the people around you are oblivious to it because of how fiercely you guard it. The kind that lingers – and aches so badly at times that you avoid “that” subject altogether. Because voicing this deep disappointment would cause the floodgates to open.
This kind of disappointment is usually attached to a long-term situation.
Maybe it’s a broken relationship; you haven’t spoken to your parent or sibling in years. Or maybe you do talk to them but feel that they are forever missing your heart – and conversations with them continually leave you deflated. You keep hoping that things are going to change, but the relationship is just as hard today as it was ten years ago.
Maybe it’s a loved one’s addiction. You’ve prayed and prayed and yes, have had seasons of breakthrough… but those seasons were shorter-lived than you had hoped. And when they go back to old patterns, it feels like a truck load of bricks has crashed down on top of you, crushing your heart under the weight of unspeakable disappointment.
Maybe it’s an untimely death. You loved that person so dearly, and everything in you wanted them to live. But they died. And you loathe the fact that they are gone. You rehearse in your mind how they might have lived if… But inevitably, you are forced to come back to the reality that they died. And it hurts so badly.
Maybe it’s a lingering illness – yours or a loved one’s. You’ve done everything you know to do, and it’s still there. And people were so supportive and involved at first, but support slowed down over time. And you’re still left in this condition, wondering if it’s ever going to get better.
Maybe it’s the fact that your life has turned out so differently from what you pictured. You had a dream when you were younger, but it didn’t happen – and your life doesn’t look at all the way you thought it would by this age. You’re not where you thought you would be financially. You’re still single and thought you would have been married long before now. You’re still struggling with your weight after all these years. You still feel no sense of direction in your career.
Maybe it’s a wayward child. You weren’t a perfect parent, but you did the very best you could. And you had such high hopes for your child. But those hopes have been dashed. Your son or daughter is going down a path you never would have imagined. And it’s so painful to watch. You wish you could change the direction of their life, but you can’t.
Maybe it’s a hard marriage. You had hoped years ago that eventually things would get better, become easier. But it doesn’t feel like they have. The marriage you had hoped for feels nonexistent, like a naïve fantasy.
Whatever it is, it’s ongoing. You can’t escape it. It’s a thorn in your flesh. You’re not consumed by it 24/7 – life must keep going. But it’s always there. It sits just beneath the surface. And when given the chance, the sheer thought of it brings the tears so easily. You work very hard to avoid this because the pain runs so deep. But sometimes, you just can’t hold it back. It demands a voice.
What are we to do with such deep disappointment? What are we to do when pain lingers? What are we to do when our life reminds us, once again, that things are not as they should be?
Well, I think admitting our pain is a good place to start. Instead of avoiding the subject and trying so very hard to keep our heart from going there, maybe we ought to yield and follow our heart to this place of hurt.
It’s scary at first, but what do we really have to be afraid of? There is no fear in love (I John 4:18). And oh, how he loves us. Let the tears come. Tears are healing. And in our tears, we invite the Spirit into our place of pain. Sitting alone in our pain won’t do any good. No… we desperately need the Spirit’s presence.
He is able to take our ashes and transform them into something beautiful (Isaiah 61:3). And he will do this every single time, if we’ll just keep inviting him in.
And you know what else he promises to do? He gives us joy in place of our sorrow (Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 30:5). Joy is not a fleeting happiness that changes with the ups and downs of ongoing pain. Joy originates in God himself, and it springs up and grows even in the midst of long-term hardship.
We’ve got to keep grabbing hold of his grace as many times as we need it. And stop beating ourselves up for not being stronger. We don’t have to be strong. In our weakness, HE is strong (II Corinthians 12:9-11). And this painful constant in our lives keeps us desperate for him, which is not such a bad place to be.
Not only do we invite the Spirit into our pain, but we also choose to hand our disappointment over to him. We can’t bear it – and he never meant for us to. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
We lay our disappointment at the foot of the Cross… and lay it down again every single time it re-visits us.
And we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus – to fully trust him as the Author of our story. To believe that he has not forgotten us, that he is fully aware of our situation (actually knows it better than we do), and that he IS at work even when we don’t see evidence of it. Just because we don’t see change in the natural realm doesn’t mean that the Spirit isn’t at work in incredible ways in the unseen realm. Beloved, only heaven will tell the glorious things God has been up to on our behalf in the unseen realm. He IS at work. We can rest in that.
And we choose not to be defined by our deep disappointment, but to be defined by him – the One who calls us
an overcomer (I John 5:4)
His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
reconciled to God (Colossians 1:22)
complete (Colossians 1:28; 2:10)
chosen of God, holy, and beloved (Colossians 3:12; II Thessalonians 2:13)
a child of promise (Galations 4:28)
a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
a son/daughter of God (Galations 3:26; 4:6-7; Romans 8:14)
I ask you, Father, to wash over the places of pain in our hearts. Give us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Spring up inside of us with your unspeakable joy. Thank you for making all things new!
[See follow up post: Stop Waiting on Joy]