The Power of Disappointment

The last few weeks have been.. disappointing. Several times something that I really wanted slipped from my grasp – or I realized I had thought was close but never was. In several cases these disappointments came from close, personal friendships. Don’t feel too sorry for me! I just want to make clear that the last month or so has been characterized by disappointment. Today I am still feeling the sting of the most recent one that came last Friday.

Disappointment is a reality of human life. People will disappoint – and I have disappointed others. Circumstances will seem to conspire to defeat us. Hopes will not be realized. Dreams will not be fulfilled. Carefully laid plans and monumental efforts will come to nothing.  Disappointment is the emotional reminder that this is true. Sometimes I wish Jesus had said “Follow me, and you will never be disappointed.” But he didn’t.

So what do to with it?

One thing is not to despair. Not to surrender in the face of defeat and failure, especially if and when we find ourselves in what seems a season of it.

Another is to use it to refocus and reorder our lives. In some cases I have dreamt of things that perhaps God does not want for me. In some things I know I have invested energy and hope in things that God would have rather been invested elsewhere. In others I have trusted people and their friendships where I ought not to have done so. Sometimes I even knew this… in others I am learning.

Disappointment is a sting to say “Look at this – what happened here?” It keeps us from just saying “Oh well” and moving on. Making the same mistakes again. Pursuing the same dead-ends. Even, sadly, not seeing clearly some of our human relationships for what they are when they are the issue. Or not seeking God’s redemption and forgiveness when we realize the fault is, in fact, on our side.

Isaiah 49:23 says —

“Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

The most important thought over the last few days is not to allow this disappointment to erode my faith or undermine my hope. God has not disappointed me. Sometimes, in fact, my longing has disappointed God and I feel in my own disappointment an echo of the divine one. Disappointment can be a goad to see things anew and to freshen faith. Let is be so.

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