Can we talk about disappointments, and how we handle them?
If there’s any sure bet, its that each of us will have our share of disappointments in life. It simply is going to happen. There are lots of things that bring disappointments into our lives. Many times its in our relationships. It might be in spousal relationships, or friendships, or employer and employee, parent and child. This is to be expected, we are human and we will fail one another. There are going to be disappointments when it comes to human behavior. There are organizations and institutions that will disappoint us. Be it a political party, or a governmental entity, or a corporation, or even a church. All of these are run by…you guessed it, human beings. Humans, and human run entities have the great potential to fail us in some way, and thus disappoint us. Sometimes, even life in general can disappoint us. Things just don’t always work out the way we plan and hope for.
Here’s the thing, we know that disappointments are going to come, how do we handle them? Do we let them drag our spirit down? Do we let them overwhelm us and subvert the good that is constantly being poured out on us? Or, do we look at disappointments in ways that are healthy and productive? Do we utilize the disappointment as a way of learning and growing?
None of us are perfect, and sometimes our perspective, the way we look at things tends to cause us to see a person, a situation, an occurrence as a failure directed at us. We are disappointed in someone’s behavior, speech, actions. Does that automatically mean that person is wrong? Or are we disappointed because whatever was said or done goes against our wishes? Maybe the actions were correct. Maybe what was said was hurtful, but needed to be said. Maybe our disappointment is really rooted in where we are at a given time. We might be in a vulnerable place emotionally and what is said or done strikes a chord in us that causes our disappointment in another. If we step back from the situation and examine what’s going on in us, we may discover the disappointment has manifested itself to help us examine our own selves. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking our ways are the best ways, our perspective is the correct one, we aren’t wrong the other person is. So disappointment can serve as an opportunity to do some introspection.
Right now, we are going through what some would call a paradigm shift in our culture, in our society, and yes even in our churches. This is a hard place to be, everything seems to be changing and it might quite possibly be. The familiar is fading away and that frightens us, it makes us anxious, we feel our control or our power is fading away with it. New ideas, new people, new ways are bubbling to the surface. The shift can bring with it a disappointment in how people and institutions are suddenly different and foreign. This kind of disappointment can push some to take on a “back to Egypt” mentality. You remember when Moses led the people out of Egypt. There was some anxst, and some name calling, and some who were determined to return to Egypt to find the familiar. Had that occurred, the people would have never made it to the promised land. They would have subverted the plan God had for them. Let’s just return to the way things were and the disappointment I’m feeling will go away. I hate to break it to you, shifts are happening, changes are occurring, we will never return to the way things used to be.
So disappointments might be a signal to us that we need to reassess why we want the familiar? We may have to ask ourselves is what we want, ie the familiar, the best thing God wants for us? Or are we experiencing growing pains and our disappointment is more about us than about God’s future for everyone?
I had a call this week from a dear friend in another congregation I served in the past. It was a painful call for a couple of reasons. She wanted to let me know her daughter’s husband had died suddenly. Her daughter has had a lot of medical issues in her life that finally has gotten to a much better place. She met and married this man and he was the love of her life for about 2 years. He simply started feeling bad and collapsed and died. He was 45 years old. There’s no way she would have thought at that age she would lose him. Only had 2 years to enjoy their life together. Too young to die. I ached for this young woman and her loss. She’s a joy and delight to be around, and I’m grieving the pain she’s having to endure. It of course reminded me of my Antoine who died and was only 46. The conversation was hard. There was lots of emotion and sadness, and disappointment at how things turned out. What we discover during these disappointing times is, we can too easily get trapped in our grief to the point where we discount the joy we’ve experienced? We mourn and grieve, those things are important and expected. But we have to come to the place where we acknowledge our loss, but praise God for what we were blessed with in the other person. The disappointment of loss can also lead us to acknowledge the deep blessing we received, even if it seemed so temporary, or taken away so soon.
In Psalm 30, the psalmist is praising God because God has rescued him. He praises God because he begins to look at his situation from a different perspective. He has been through some things. He has experienced some pain and difficulties. He has endured disappointments. “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Whatever disappointments you and I are facing, we have to remember they are temporary things and they can serve to help us become stronger, wiser, and more ready and willing to follow where God wants to take us.
We are entering a period of discernment about the vision and mission of our church. I’m going to be seeking your input. I’m going to be in earnest prayer and conversation with God. I believe God is leading us to a bright and bountiful future. Will the way be paved with some hardships, hurts, changes, disappointments? Yes it will. This is because God’s future for us is not about us, or what we want. God’s future is about how God can use us to reach others with God’s love, mercy, grace and salvation. God is speaking my friends, and just like with the Hebrew children, God isn’t leading us backward, but forward. Let’s pray and support one another as we follow where God will lead us.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,