Dealing with Disappointment

In my nearly three decades of life on this earth, I have experienced some disappointment. Not a ton of disappointment, granted, but some. Most of it has come in the past five years since graduating college. Life hasn’t quite gone the way I expected all the time. In the midst of all of this, I’m confident that God’s goodness and mercy has been hunting me down, chasing after me just like His word promises (Psalm 23:6), but that doesn’t mean that when the moment of disappointment comes I can always see exactly what God is up to.

There have been times God has graciously allowed me to see what He was doing after the fact (like when I didn’t get hired as a Resident Director the first time I applied, or when my dad had to go on dialysis even though I was praying he could receive a transplant before having to go through that whole process), but there have been other times when I simply don’t know why God has done something. Recently God has been teaching me to view disappointment differently.

It was the combination of a few things that started this work in my heart. First of all, I had just finished reading “Prodigal God” by Tim Keller. God began to expose my own motives for obedience as I read that book and I started to see that so often I feel I have the right to demand things of God because I’ve obeyed Him, or as if God has some obligation to do what I want because I have a relationship with Him, because I’m in some inner circle with the Most High. I began to see that when I’ve been disappointed, I’ve become angry at God for not letting me have my way and have, in essence just been using Him to get what I want.

That’s ugly.

Then, God simultaneously allowed me to read a blog post by Jon Bloom entitled “Disappointed by Jesus” where he tells a story of Joseph Barsabbas, the disciple who wasn’t chosen to replace Judas as one of the Twelve, giving advice to his young disciple on the topic of disappointment (I highly recommend just reading the whole thing for yourself).

What struck me about that blog was the concept of dis-appointment, as in not being appointed for something because God has chosen to appoint us to something else. I had never thought of it like that.

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of  the word “appoint” is:

1 a : to fix or set officially; b : to name officially; c archaic : arrange; d : to determine the disposition of (an estate) to someone by virtue of a power of appointment.

Some synonyms are: designate, fix, name, set. When I say God is appointing us, I mean He is designating us to a certain calling, ministry, circumstance, or whatever you want to call it and that can be as small as one single opportunity to minister to someone in need of it. I’m not talking about calling or ministry in a broad, sweeping sense. I am talk about it in a moment by moment sense.

Let me give you an example. Lets say I have my eyes set on a certain young fellow. For the sake of illustration lets say he’s tall, handsome, kind, and extremely in love with Jesus. And lets say this young man decides that he would like to get together for coffee so we can get to know each other better. I’m excited about the prospect (you can tell this is fiction now, because anyone that knows me knows that I would never be excited about this…I’d be scared out of my mind and trying to run away), and so we decide to meet at Starbucks at 7 o’clock on a Wednesday night. So I show up at 7:02 (because I’m typically a few minutes late) and the young man is nowhere in sight. But I do spot a young girl who is on the fringe at our high school group and hasn’t been around for a while. I take the chance to say hi to her and I can see that she is upset. I sit down and intend of having a short chat with her while I wait for the young man to come. Ten minutes go by, then twenty, then thirty, and the young man never shows up but I end up being able to really minister to this girl who is hurting and was really wishing she had someone to talk to. In that circumstance, I may feel disappointed that the night hadn’t gone according to my plan because I had been planning on an appointment with a potential suitor. But God had a different appointment. His appointment was for me to be able to talk to that girl. And ultimately, since I take my orders from Him, that was the appointment I was there for.

Am I making any sense?

John 3:27 says, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” There is not one thing, not even one single thing, that anyone can receive unless it is given to him by God in Heaven. God is King, He is Lord, He is Father, and He is ultimately the One appointing us to what He sees fit during the course of our earthly lives.

So we may feel disappointed at times, but the truth is we are being dis-appointed by a loving heavenly Father who, in His infinite and perfect wisdom, has seen fit to appoint us to something else. And sometimes, it is the best thing that can happen to us.

In the post I mentioned earlier, Joseph Barsabbas describes why his disappointment in not being one of the Twelve, although understandable, was wrong,

It was wrong because it was rooted in unbelief in my Savior and my selfish pride. I was doubting the promise that ‘no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Psalm 84:11). I was doubting that the One who was crucified for my sin and called me out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) really had my best in mind. And it exposed my selfish ambition. It wasn’t until the lot fell on Matthias that I realized how much I wanted that position for my own reputation. Apostleship is a worthy office to aspire to, but when the Lord appointed another, thereby dis-appointing me, much of my ‘disappointment’ was rooted in a frustrated desire for my own glory.

Sometimes God disappoints us so He can humble us, but if we believe that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), then that is the best possible thing He can do for us. Or sometimes He disappoints us because He has something better in store. Or sometimes it’s to spare us from something terrible that we can’t anticipate. There’s a million things God is doing in every one thing he does. Sometimes we will never know why but we can be confident from books like Ruth & Esther that never even mention God’s name that He is at work even when He seems to be silent.

So I’m praying for grace to trust and even enjoy God’s sovereign appointment in my life, even if it’s not the appointment I am expecting.

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One thought on “Dealing with Disappointment

  1. Hi friend. I so appreciate this post, along with Jon Bloom’s post you mention. I had never considered disappointment like this, and it’s beautiful though hard. Shortly after reading this, I got to observe myself not winning an award. It was really interesting to see how disappointed I became, even though I had gone into the competition with very slim chances. I never realized disappointment can reveal so much of our own selfish desires for glory.

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