Disappointment is a sadness that grows into bitterness over time if it is not dealt with. How do we navigate through our emotions and come out victorious? Ee Zhen Ying gives us five postures to take in the face of disappointments.
All of us have experienced disappointments; some more than others. These familiar feelings stem from sadness—especially when our expectations are not met.
It is a child who clings on to the promise of an outing with his parent, but when the day comes, his parent is called to attend to a work emergency and postpones the outing.
It is a wife hoping to receive a gift from her husband on a special occasion, only to find that he has forgotten about their special day.
It is looking up to a church leader and one day finding out that the leader has backslidden in the faith.
It is Mary and Martha waiting for Jesus to heal their brother, Lazarus—till all hope was gone when Lazarus eventually died (Jn 11:21, 32). It is interesting to note that Jesus was not angry when He was confronted with their disappointment. Instead, He wept together with them.
In this fallen and broken world, it is natural for anyone to grapple with disappointment. But as believers, we must learn to walk out of it so that the life of Christ can be seen in us. Drawing from the book Dealing with Disappointment, written by John Hindley, Ee Zhen Ying, a pastoral supervisor in City Harvest Church highlights five ways to navigate our emotions at the Virtual Missions conference organised by City Harvest’s The Harvest Network last year.
Jesus walked through disappointment so that He can bring it to an end and give us hope. Jesus was not crushed by disappointment, instead, He crushed it.
2 Cor 4:8-10 (NLT) reads, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
Disappointment can broadly fall under three categories.
1. Needless Disappointment
Jeremiah 2:11,13 reads, “Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”
As Christians, we may not be worshipping carved idols, but do we worship other things in life? In a dry land like Israel, cisterns mean life. The water held by cisterns refers to life, security and prosperity. A cracked cistern is, therefore, life-threatening. God is pointing out that cisterns we create for ourselves cannot hold our life.
If we put our joy, contentment, satisfaction and success into worldly things, the satisfaction will drain eventually, and all that remains is a disappointment.
The feeling of lacking something in life—a spouse, children, friends, fulfilment—hurts. We feel disappointed when we don’t have what we want in life. The question then is, do we allow our disappointments to tint our world?
When we become too disappointed, we lose joy in everyday living. That is when we need to step back and ask ourselves, “Who am I?”
We are a collection of identities. You can be a wife, a husband, a daughter, a co-worker, a friend. But most of all, you are a child of God and Jesus Christ has died on the cross for you.
If the core of our identity is not in being a child of God, we tend to make something, or someone else, our god. If our ultimate satisfaction is not in Christ, we will make another person or a relationship our idol.
You can either say “I am a follower of Christ, but I cannot have children, so my life is dominated by disappointment,” or, “I cannot have children, but I am loved by God, and there is joy in Him.”
We can choose to let disappointments define our lives, or let our lives be defined by Jesus.
3. Disappointment Without Cause
Sometimes, we experience disappointments without any reason. Nothing is obviously wrong in your life—you have a decent job, a fulfilling social life, and yet, life feels meaningless.
In your heart, you know that 20 years down the road, your life would probably remain the same. There is nothing else to hope for, beyond the occasional dining out, the year-end holiday trip and so on. Yes, these are good things, but life becomes so predictable and routine that it seems to have lost its fun and its shine. Do you keep asking yourself what’s next?
King Solomon experienced this. He said in Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NLT), “But as I looked at everything, I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”
It is peculiar that we can have everything we want, and still feel that life is empty and meaningless. We ought to be satisfied, but we aren’t. As a result, some people fall into depression or indifference. Some choose to change their lifestyle, get out of their marriage, go on a new adventure. Others try to indulge themselves in temporary escapes like shopping, Korean drama, or drinking.
If we allow disappointment to fester over time, it will lead to bitterness and misery. So, how do we deal with disappointments?
5 POSTURES IN DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT
John 10:10 reads, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
The devil wants to use our disappointment to steal and kill our joy, thereby destroying our lives. He wants us to draw away from Christ, isolated and away from the church. He does this by making us feel that we should be quiet about our hurts.
If you don’t share your disappointment in your marriage with anyone, the devil can use that to strangle your joy and sow bitterness in your heart. You’ll slowly fall out of love and may even go on to have an affair. If you don’t share your disappointment about still being single, it can lead to sexual immorality. If you are disappointed with your church leader and feel that it is something you cannot share about, the devil can use it to destroy your destiny.
In church, we have brothers and sisters who are born for adversity (Prov 17:17). When we are facing hurts in our lives, we must commit it before God and then share it with others. Don’t sweep it under the carpet.
Instead of giving the standard reply of “I’m fine” to anyone who’s asking, why not say, “I’ve got a few things happening to me, I’m not quite fine. Can we talk later?” or “Not great. Would you have time for coffee this week? I need someone to talk to.”
With that in mind, there is a time and a place to share your feelings—and sharing with the right person is just as important. Once you feel that you are ready to talk about what you are facing, find someone you trust, preferably your pastoral overseer and share your thoughts with them.
Thankfulness is a powerful defence that can help us overcome disappointment.
Rather than asking, “Is that it for my life?”, try giving thanks to God for what we have. If we look to Christ, we will see that He died for us, and He promised to return in glory, to end all suffering and disappointment.
In Luke 1:46-47, Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” when the angel told her that she was pregnant with Jesus. She said this knowing that she would face scandals and gossip as an unwed mother in the near future. Even in the midst of her circumstances and the price of obedience she had to pay, Mary chose to see the light of His plan and the love He had for mankind.
When you magnify Christ, you become thankful. When you become thankful, it magnifies Christ. It makes Him bigger in your life and more significant than the weight of your problems. The thankfulness that fills your heart pushes disappointment out of it.
Having a sense of purpose is unique to humanity. A dog, hamster or monkey does not sit around wondering why they are here on earth. In Ecclesiastes 2:11, Solomon lamented about life being meaningless. He tried many things—wealth, music, women, pleasure, beauty, fame, work—yet those things failed to add meaning to his life.
CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee has been teaching the church that the ultimate goal of a Christian’s life is Christlikeness. To have eternal life is to know Father God and Jesus Christ, and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. To have eternal life is to be loved by God, and to love Him. This love then flows out to others.
We need to turn away from being overly disappointed in our relationships and turn to the absolutely satisfying love of Christ. We need to stop trying to drink from a cracked cistern but drink from the source Himself.
We need to repent and remember that our purpose in life is not achieving something, but to love Jesus, and to love others. That is how we can find meaning and satisfaction.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reads, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
We need to take our eyes off what we don’t have, fix it on Jesus, and put our disappointments in perspective. What we see is temporary, but God’s work in our hearts is eternal. Disappointment is a legitimate feeling, but we cannot allow it to dictate our emotions.
As you decide to put aside your disappointment and move on in life, you will find the strength of heart and peace of mind to pursue your purpose in Christ.
When we are going through difficult seasons, we need to enter into the sanctuary of God (Ps 73:2-3, 13-14, 17). As we spend time in God’s presence and hear Him speaking to us, we can dislodge the foothold of disappointment and allow hope to fill our hearts again.
Even though God may not remove the memory of disappointment, He will redeem you and your disappointments, in ways you cannot imagine.
God has given you Himself, through Jesus Christ on the cross. He will give you a new heart, a new hope, a new success, a new future. He will give you an inheritance that never fades away.