Disappointment: 4 Steps in Overcoming the Letdowns of Life
Life has felt an awful lot like a roller coaster ride these days. Chances are, you’ve experienced the same sort of thing. One day life feels as fresh and full of hope as a beautiful spring day. You go to bed and wake up—and boy, have things changed. Before you know it, a conversation or email plunges you to the pits of despair. There’s spilled milk everywhere!
All of a sudden, what you thought was steadfast hope and faith collides with an unexpected reality check leaving behind disappointment big enough to knock you down.
A natural optimist, I generally see the good in people or in situations. But I’ll be the first to admit just how quickly my positivity is overtaken by a depressive spirit. Sometimes it takes every ounce of spiritual maturity I have to climb out of the deep places that disappointments take me.
Disappointment leads to hurt. Hurt leads quickly to anger and anger to bitterness. By that time I’m fighting to find a sliver of forgiveness in the deepest crevice of my heart.
If not for a strong belief that God can bring good from the worst situations, it could be overwhelming. Thank God we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight that comes because God has rushed in and proven that he is bigger than any disappointment that has ever come our way.
Rarely is God the one who pulls the rug out from under us. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t ever do that, but it seems to me that God occasionally allows a “big picture” view when it comes to taking care of us. I don’t mean that as an existential statement saying God does not care and isn’t intricately involved in every aspect of our lives, because I know he is. I simply mean I believe there are times when he allows injustice or disappointment to happen in our lives for the sake and benefits of what he can and will do in the big picture if we trust him and move forward with confidence.
Disappointments are a part of life. People let you down. Your body fails you. A precious child suffers and dies. Cancer comes back. Friends betray you. Bosses turn on you. Organizations toss you aside. The Stock Market falls. Children make bad decisions. Old habits—thought conquered—return, [insert your disappointment here] , and the list goes on and on …
It doesn’t matter “which” disappointment you’re dealing with now, this one thing holds true: no matter how bad life looks or how let down we feel, hope is always there. In fact, it is the believer’s constant companion—even when you can’t see it, it’s there.
So how do we overcome the letdowns of life? Here are four steps I use to process disappointment and help me move on with life.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Although I’d like to say I am able to start the process of overcoming disappointments with step two, personal experience has taught me that it is almost impossible to defeat deep disappointment without going through a grieving process of some sort.
Feel your disappointment. It’s okay to be sad and grieve. When things don’t go the way you’ve planned or expected, or when life as you know it is shot down, it’s natural to be sad and even mourn what was or could have been. For some, grieving is a time of quiet reflection; for others, it involves tears and anger. Of course, the trick here is to release the sadness and accept the inevitable without feeding the root of bitterness that can quickly sprout up and flourish.
Pray. How blessed we are as believers to not have to carry the heavy burden of disappointment alone. Scripture teaches us, the load is more easily carried when the yoke is shared with others. We have Abba Father, Spouses, Trusted friends, Life group families; surround yourself by those who love and care for you and share your burden.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
God already knows about your heartache and disappointment, but tell him anyway. He wants you to talk to him. Be honest; speak from the heart. If you’re mad, tell him. (It’s okay—he’s God and he can take it!) If you want to know why, ask him. (Again, it’s okay—he’s God!) More importantly, ask for his wisdom and insight. Be still. Be quiet. Allow him to speak to your heart.
Cast your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7
#2. Put Things into Perspective
It’s during my times of great disappointment that I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your thoughts.”
Realize that God knows best. How many times have we railed against circumstances and disappointments only to praise God later for the way things turned out? Though it’s difficult to swallow, there are many times when God will use a very painful disappointment to move us; even if we feel called to be right where we are. It’s okay. He’s faithful. He’s our defender and will go before us. Psalms 59:9 says, “God, my strength, I am looking to You, because God is my Defender.
Other times God will use a disappointment to take us where he’s been trying to get us to go. And, almost always, God allows it to grow our character and faith.
Be thankful. It might sound tough when you’re reeling from disappointment, but be thankful and look for God’s goodness and graciousness in your life. Sure, it’s easier to wallow in self-pity, but don’t. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 teaches us to, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Easier said than done, I know, but be intentional about your thankfulness and God will bless your efforts.
Serve others. When someone or something disappointments us, the inclination is to withdraw, turn in and focus on ourself. That’s the easy choice. But it’s not who we are in Christ; We can chose to be driven by what has happened to us or we can push through and live by the principles that guide our lives.
When it’s hard to put things into perspective, that’s the most important time to find the good, grab it with both hands, and celebrate it.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
#3. Focus on God’s Purpose for Your Life
Do we serve the God of the universe or not? I mean this is GOD we’re talking about—the one who created the earth. The author of life, purveyor of miracles. essence of resurrection and all things new. Omnipotent, Omniscient, God; Savior of the world! He can do anything. ANYTHING! [Note to self: God is in control!]
Reaffirm your faith. When disappointment takes a nose-dive down into our lives, it often brings a crisis of belief with it. That when our faith has to kick into gear and make a conscious decision of saying “yes, I believe in God’s plan and purpose for my life.” “I trust him with my future.” “I believe he’s got this,’ and he’s looking out for me and one day I’m going to step back and see how God’s perfect plan unfolded in my life.”
Move forward. In the meantime, things may stink but God’s plan for your life and the way he has gifted and shaped you hasn’t changed. Step back and look at where God is at work around you; then move forward. Sometimes we become so focused on “us,” we fail to see where he is directing our path. Even in our pain and suffering, God will use us.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
#4. Adjust Your Life Accordingly
There comes a point when all the wailing and gnashing of teeth subsides and life must continue. Psalms 30:5 says: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Sometimes it takes a while to get to the “morning,” but eventually, the sun comes up. And when it does, there’s often change involved.
Embrace the change. If you can’t embrace change, go back to step three and review the part about God being in control. This is when we have to pull ourselves from the mire of disappointment and believe what we believe! If we don’t, we run the risk of becoming hostages to our disappointment.
Trust God and have courage. Trust God that you’re going to be able to say, “That was the best thing that could have happened in my life.” Why? Because sometimes God allows disappointments to take us where we otherwise would never have the courage to go!
Let go. The first time I went hang-gliding, I quickly realized it takes a lot more trust to jump off the mountain than to hang in the air. Once you’ve jumped, there’s not much more you can do than just hang on tight and enjoy the ride! We need to let go of “anything” we’re hanging on to tighter than God. The only thing we need to be holding on to IS God. Sometimes that “anything” may be more than just the disappointment—it may be people, places, jobs, homes, health—it may be everything. But, it’s when we let go of everything except God that hope thrives.
This is what I know with all my heart: God has plans for us. They’re plans for good, not disaster; he wants to give us a hope that flourishes. We have a purpose and it doesn’t run or go away because someone or circumstances rocked our world. God will allow us to live out our purpose on this earth.
Even in the midst of great disappointment, God is preparing us for even greater work in the days ahead. Because of that, I’m inspired to make a promise this day—and every single day—to use my life for his good.
No matter what. Come rain or shine.
Billy Graham once said, “Even if we may not understand why God
allows certain things to happen to us, we know he is able to bring
good out of evil and triumph out of suffering.”
He can and he will.
Remember, it’s on the roller coaster of life that we discover the truth of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”
We can and we will; because life’s too short to do anything else.