If you’re like me, disappointments don’t settle on you very easily. Nobody likes to be disappointed. It leaves you feeling as if you failed somehow. You didn’t achieve what you set out to do, you didn’t make the impression you had hoped for, you have an empty feeling where you had hoped to find real satisfaction.
I’m not necessarily a fan of hockey, but of course I was pulling for the Dallas Stars this week in their quest to win the Stanley Cup. This is a prestigious honor. It is awarded annually to the National Hockey League playoff winner. It is the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to a professional sports franchise in North America. Members of the team that win the trophy have the honor of touching the trophy, and get to display the trophy for about 100 days in the year they win it. The Dallas Stars have won the cup once before, and have competed to win it five times. They had hoped to win this year, only to have those hopes dashed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
What a huge disappointment for the Dallas Stars and their fans. Lots of hope riding on this championship struggle.
This brings me to the question of how we are supposed to handle disappointments in life. We know inevitably, disappointments will come. They occur in lots of ways to all of us. I’m personally disappointed in not being able to meet in person for worship. I look forward to regular corporate worship with everyone who attends Preston Hollow. It is the corporate gathering of all of us that helps to breathe life into our rituals, our liturgy, our songs of praise and thanksgiving. So yes, I’m disappointed we have to conduct our worship only via the internet. Its not the same, its very different. But how are we supposed to handle our disappointments in life?
Because we know disappointments can lead to depression and despair, we can look to scripture to find out what God says to us about how to handle these situations.
In Proverbs 3: 5-8, we’re told “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” This says to us, what we may be going through may be beyond our understanding, but if we place our trust in God, God will see us through. That doesn’t do much to alleviate the level of disappointment we may feel, but it does say to us our trust in God will see us through even the valley we may find ourselves in.
Looking at the case of Job, we find a person who placed all of his trust, all of his faith, his whole being was given over to serving and honoring God. Job certainly experienced much disappointment and tragedy in his life. He had been a wealthy person, one who was blessed with a large family, everything was going right for him. Suddenly, all of this was taken away from Job. What did Job do? In Job 1: 20-21 we’re told, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord be praised.”
Job could have sank into despair, certainly he was faced with a monumental disappointment. What Job remembered was he came into the world with nothing and will leave with nothing. Anything he receives during his lifetime is a blessing from God. The most important thing he received from God was the breath of life, and that breath was still in him. As long as that breath is in him, Job resolves to praise God for all of life. This is helpful to me. Its so easy to slip into the thinking that we are owed anything. Somehow, we deserve to live a certain lifestyle, we deserve to have a certain income, we deserve to be shielded from the ups and downs that surely will come as we live. None of this is promised to us. To quote a song sung by Lynn Anderson, “I never promised you a rose garden.” God has never told us our lives will be easy, free from want or need. God has never said in life we will not experience problems, adversity, troubles, or disappointments. What we do know is, through every situation we find ourselves in, God is there. God is walking with us and will comfort us. God will rejoice with us when we rejoice, and mourn with us when we mourn.
King David, a person after God’s own heart, certainly pulled a lot of shenanigans in his time. And yet, God loved David, because God knew David truly loved God. David experienced a lot of disappointments in his life, many of his own doing. Yet David knew that his response was to always be to praise God. David committed adultery and murder to get what he wanted, and then reaped a huge disappointment when his child with Bathsheba dies. In 2 Samuel 12: 19-20 we read, “But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.” Even when we are the source of our own disappointment, we should not neglect to worship and honor God. God knows we are not perfect, God knows we will make mistakes. We are to always and everywhere worship and honor God, for God never departs from us and is always ready for us to lean on God’s unfailing grace.
One of my favorite passages of scripture when I’m facing trouble and disappointment comes from James 1: 2-4, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It almost sounds ludicrous to rejoice when we are facing problems and disappointments. The wisdom in this is staggering though, if we see every situation as an opportunity to find joy, there is nothing that can ever really get us down. Joy is not something that can be purchased, or bargained for, or manufactured. Joy comes from deep within us, it is a fruit of the Spirit. We should think in every circumstance where we can find joy. In the worst situation possible, there is still joy to be found. If we seek and find that joy, there is no disappointment which can ever defeat us.
As I said in the beginning, it is inevitable, disappointment will come to all of us. How we choose to handle those disappointments will make all the difference in our lives. I choose to find joy in every situation. I choose not to let political divisions, economic upheaval, racial strife, health concerns get me down. These are heavy and weighty matters that cause me great concern. In the midst of them, I choose to find joy. I find joy knowing God can overcome everyone of these. I find joy knowing God will empower me to continue to be God’s presence in every one of these situations. I find joy knowing each of us can do our part to change our world and turn disappointments into times for rejoicing and praising God.
I hope and pray you will find joy this day, this week, this year. God wants us to rejoice and praise, worship and honor God in every place and situation we find ourselves in. Let God’s joy fill your heart, be in your words, and in your actions.
Your fellow traveler on The Way,