Disappointment: 4 Steps in Overcoming the Letdowns of Life

spilled milkLife 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.
Psalms 34:18

11949853051162234570break_carlos_katastrofsk_.svg.med

#1. Grieve
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.
Philippians 4:6-7

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

11949853051162234570break_carlos_katastrofsk_.svg.med

#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.
Jeremiah 29:11

11949853051162234570break_carlos_katastrofsk_.svg.med

#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.
Romans 8:28

11949853051162234570break_carlos_katastrofsk_.svg.med

#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.

Hope Flourishes
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.

Advertisements

Life in Detail

3424068728_586d09aee9_z

It was a perfect day for taking a drive in the mountains, so we grabbed sweaters and piled into the car to make the familiar trek to a fishing village on the other side of the island. We spent the next several hours watching the fishermen come in with their catches for the day. When the last boat finally came in, all the fishermen rushed out to grab hold of the thick sea ropes and pulled the boat onto the sandy shore. Groaning nets of freshly caught fish were emptied into plastic tubs and packed with ice, as they were made ready for the trip to the fish market. Heading back to the car for the long drive home, we bought two bags of fresh tangerines and threw them onto the backseat.

As the car began to climb the double-lane highway, we rolled down all the windows, tore open a bag of tangerines, and proceeded to have an impromptu picnic. The fresh peels split easily, revealing the plump, juicy fruits inside; the pungent tang mixed with the salty sea air and filled our nostrils.

Sweet as candy, the juice dribbled down our chins as we chatted and gobbled down the sweet treats. Before we knew it, both bags of fruits were gone, and the only thing left was sticky fingers. Searching for napkins in the glove compartment, I lifted them up with a victorious shout and raised my head just in time to see the magnificent postcard view of the lagoon below as we crested the mountain and began our descent down the other side.

All it takes is the smell of tangerines, and the memory of that day comes rushing back with such force I have no choice but to settle into it like a comfortable easy chair and remember. Every detail is etched on my brain: the warmth of the day, the perfect cerulean blue sky, the bright sunshine, the cool wind whipping through the open windows of the car, the heady perfume of tangerine juice spraying through the air, and the view I memorized and tucked into my heart. The love and laughter that filled our car that day made a memory that will last forever.

Life’s too short to miss the details. They’re not merely the distinctive or minute parts of a particular moment, they are the very facets of our life that collectively inspire and remind us of who we are, what we’ve become, and why. They’re the fibers from which we are woven together.

Ultimately, they become the beliefs that compel us to determine what we stand for and what will be important in life.

When we live life in detail, we create moments that stay with us forever.

© 2014 Kathy Chapman Sharp

Five Foot Nothing

“I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made …” (Psalms 139:14a)

When my daughter Rebekah was eight years old she told me the story of Amy Carmichael — an Irish woman who followed God to India where she eventually founded a mission and orphanage in Dohnavur. As a young child Amy often wished that she had blue eyes like her little brother’s rather than the brown eyes she had been born with. In fact, at night before going to bed, she would often pray that Jesus would change her eye color. Jumping out of bed in the morning, Amy would run to the mirror to see her new blue eyes and was disappointed when her prayers were never answered.

When God called her to minister in India, Amy finally realized God’s wisdom in giving her brown eyes. Often criticized by colleagues for her unorthodox methods, she wore Indian dress and dyed her light skin with strong, dark coffee. She often traveled  hundreds of miles on India’s hot dusty roads to save a child from the life of being a temple servant. And because Amy Carmichael had brown eyes she was able to gain the acceptance of the Indian people and allowed to enter the temples where she rescued hundreds of children.

Wow! I think God knew what He was doing when He gave Amy Carmichael brown eyes!I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted blue eyes. Mine are dark brown and I’ve always been partial to them. My nemesis has always been my height. I topped out at 60 inches in junior high which I affectionately dubbed, “five foot nothing.”  “Stand up, Kathy,” they would often say. “I am,” I would answer. I’ve never enjoyed being short but like Amy, I’ve learned that God can and DOES use every detail of our creation in his work.

Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. There may be some things that you’re not happy about but its important to realize that God created you the way he did for his greater purpose. Yes, it’s easy to obsess about weight or the fact we don’t look like a super model. It’s even easier to get sidetracked from God’s truth and start thinking like the world that tells us physical appearance is the most important quality we can have or that our intelligence, talents, and achievements can bring us power and wealth.

But, realize this; everything about you was created to bring honor and glory to God. Everything. That means our self-worth is based in Christ and his magnificent love for us! Life in Christ is deeper than eye color, weight, height and even beauty. Life’s too short to dwell on what we perceive as imperfections — instead, why not look forward to discovering the life and ministry for which God uniquely crafted us to live!

Enjoy chapter 29 of Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture (For Women) The Smell of Cheap Perfume

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I once knew a girl from Switzerland named Olivia. Tall and lanky, she was vivacious and outgoing—a beautiful girl who dipped sugar cubes into strong Spanish espresso and popped them between her lips, all the while smiling like she had invented a new way to drink coffee. Of course, Olivia did everything differently and was proud of it. She often entertained us with her latest escapades in broken English while we sat in the little coffee shop just off the Gran Via in Madrid.

The first day I met Olivia at the language school where we were both learning Castellan Spanish, she was wearing a bright green sweater with one of those alligator icons that were so popular in the early eighties. When I saw her the next day, she was wearing it again. In fact, when I said good-bye to Olivia six months later, she was still wearing that blasted green sweater.

Let me explain.

After thirty days or so, the sweater began to smell. “Surely she’ll buy another sweater,” I told myself. “After all, her father is an ambassador, for crying out loud—she can afford it!” But she didn’t, and after the second month, I could smell her in the classroom even though I sat two full rows over.

When month three rolled around, I started avoiding Olivia. She was a sweet girl, but let’s face it—she stunk to high heaven. Like a lot of Europeans, her bathing was sporadic, and when you added that malodorous green sweater to the mix. . . . Well, you understand why I went in the opposite direction when I saw her coming. When I couldn’t gracefully evade her, I’d stop breathing through my nose and try taking in air through my mouth while we conversed. Then, as soon as I could, I’d make a quick getaway.

My luck ran out when a new term started during month four. Not only did Olivia’s sweater get more difficult to bear, but I was assigned the seat next to hers in the afternoon language lab we attended every day. Olivia would put on a headset and prop herself up against the little partition that separated our learning areas, and I’d spend the next hour breathing the pungent air that wafted my way. Conjugating Spanish verbs was never easy, but suddenly it got harder.

Around month five, I’m guessing Olivia became aware of the problem because she started dousing herself and the green sweater with a fairly cheap perfume that you could pick up in any store in Madrid. Now the odorous breezes were rounded out with a bouquet of roses and jasmine. But no matter how much cheap perfume she sprayed on, the smell was never covered. It bled through like a magic marker on porous paper.

During month six, we graduated the term, and I said good-bye to Olivia and her green sweater. I’ll be honest—my nose was glad to see her go.

The other day, Terry and I were talking about our experiences of living in Spain. I laughed out loud when I recalled that green sweater. But later, in my quiet time with God, an arrow of truth pierced my heart so violently, I felt ashamed.

God reminded me of the times I refused to take off the green sweater of my old life. When it started getting stinky, I just doused myself in cheap grace. You know, the kind that ignores the fact that Christ went to the cross and why he went and what really happened there. The same cheap grace that downplays the need for regret, remorse, and life-change and then has the nerve to loudly complain that life as a Christian should be easier and require less commitment on my part.
Yeah, that’s the cheap grace I’m talking about. When things started getting stinkier, I’d just dab a little more cheap grace behind the ears and march boldly into God’s holy sanctuary, where my reeking assumptions cheapened the very sacrifices Jesus laid on the altar for me.

“How do you stand me, Lord?” I cried. “How can you stand to be around me?”

Several years ago, Scott Chapman coined the phrase “practical atheism.” He defines it as believing that God exists while behaving as if he does not. In other words, it’s a faith that’s so far removed from a person’s everyday life that it makes no real, practical difference in the way he or she lives.

I think practical atheists wear green sweaters and cheap grace.

No matter how much I said I believed and doused myself in cheap grace, it didn’t begin to cover the stench of what I wouldn’t let go. I don’t want to wear this cheap grace anymore. I can’t stand the smell of myself.

I’ve been reading a book my friend Jon Walker wrote called Costly Grace. The book affirms the truth I have known for a long time in my heart. Costly grace is pricey—it costs us everything we have, but it’s worth it. Costly grace compels us to take off our stinky green sweaters and bathe ourselves in the forgiveness that makes us clean and sweet-smelling. It requires obedience that results in a change of habits and thoughts, a new outlook, and even a change to the way we “do” relationships.
Real grace brings transformation to our lives. And there’s no need for cheap perfume when we’re taking a bath in that.

Life Note: Living out real grace isn’t easy, but life’s too short to settle for cheap grace. Every time we put it on, we lower the standard of the Gospel. If we give up our lives to Christ, he gives real life back. There’s no need for cheap grace because the stinky old life doesn’t exist anymore. When Christ lives in us, we really do change.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (Gal. 2:20–21 NLT)

© 2011 Kathy Chapman Sharp

Hot Off The Press!

Hot Off The Press!

When I posted this photo on Twitter, my friend, Philip Nation tweeted back congratulations, saying: “Nothing like seeing a book with your name on the cover. Very excited for you.”  He’s right. When I ripped open the box and lifted out the first copy (promised to my encouraging friend Carol Ann Williams), it was like coming full circle. A lot has happened in the last 11 months! Yes, there’s a sense of accomplishment but more than anything I’m still amazed and humbled that I got the opportunity to write this book. A special thanks to my friends at Leafwood Publishers/ACU Press for the privilege.

Chet’s Quik Stop

I was already running late when I exited the interstate to continue my journey down the winding country road. I was on my way to spend the weekend teaching on servant leadership at a retreat center, and the last strong rays of sunshine shimmered through the trees, temporarily blinding me as they rushed to finish their work before stealing away and turning the sky to blue velvet dusk. The falling leaves reminded me that summer was long gone and wouldn’t be back for a while.
In my rush to get out of Nashville and miss the afternoon traffic, I’d decided to gas up somewhere down the road. Now, glancing at the gas gauge, I realized I’d be running on fumes if I didn’t stop soon.
Around the bend was Chet’s Quik Stop. I turned in and pulled up to the gas pumps, reading the handmade signs taped to them. “Come inside if you need a receipt,” it said. “No problem,” I thought, as I pulled up to the regular pump. “I don’t need a receipt, just gas.” But after trying to swipe my credit card twice, I realized there was more than a receipt problem. I’d actually have to go inside and pay. With precious minutes ticking away, I sighed with annoyance, grabbed my purse, and headed into the dilapidated mini-mart that also moonlighted as a restaurant.
As I made my way around the small lime green car parked directly in front of the door, the odor of old grease hit me. It hung so densely in the air, I knew I would come out smelling like the hot wings and pizza Chet advertised on the tired old sign out front.
I got in line at the checkout counter behind an enormous woman purchasing several bottles of Mountain Dew. Her head had been recently shaved, and her ill-fitting clothes were sloppy and smelly. Pulling out handfuls of change from her pockets, she clumsily counted out the nickels and dimes with her fat, puffy fingers while attempting to engage the disinterested clerk in conversation. Her stab at witty small talk made me cringe. Full of improper grammar and word usage, her loud, unruly words—like her person—were coarse, repulsive, and offensive.
It was obvious she wasn’t in a hurry. “Come on, people,” I thought to myself. “I’ve got places to go and people to see.” Folding my arms tightly, it was all I could do to keep from heaving a sigh out loud. I tapped my foot; frustrated with the turn my day had taken. I tried to think happy thoughts, but when my eyes landed on the three large rolls of fat where her neck should have been, I became mesmerized by a huge boil at the base of her skull. Even though her hair had started growing back, it wasn’t long enough to cover the festering sore nestled between the giant folds of fat.
Oblivious of my presence, she finally finished paying and—in one sweeping motion—picked up her plastic bags, turned her massive body, and headed straight for the door all the while spouting a string of curse words rude enough to make a sailor blush. Had I not been quick in stepping back, she would have plowed me down. As it was, she met my gaze. I felt her thick contempt for me, the city slicker, as she glanced down at my leather boots and well-planned outfit. The sneer on her face dared me to speak.
In that moment, I knew I had two choices on how I could react to the hate pouring from her eyes.
I could play her game and reply with a cold, disdainful look that said, “What a bothersome creature you are. Please get your obese, mouthy self out of my way.”
Or, I could be like Jesus.
In an instant, I knew there was no choice.
Compelled by a sense of overwhelming kindness, I returned her candid stare. Love that could only come from God coursed through me; in that moment, I was able to reach out my hand, touch her arm, and say, “I’m so sorry. Please excuse me.” Then I gave her a big, sweet smile. Not just any smile. I’m talking about the ones I usually reserve for new babies or special friends.
And I meant it.
We stared at each other for at least ten seconds. Then, lumbering around me, sneer intact, she pushed through the door.
When I came back out, she was still sitting in the little lime green car in front of the door. She was fidgeting with two small American flags—like the ones you wave at parades—that were pushed in the dashboard vase, and I got the feeling she was waiting for me to come out. I was right.
I looked at her, and her fleshy face broke into a smile. At first it was shaky, like a kid who’s riding her bike for the first time without training wheels. But then it turned into a genuine, honest-to-goodness smile. Raising her hand, she waved good-bye, and the little green car pulled out of the parking lot and drove away.

Sometimes it’s the everyday, ordinary living that’s the hardest.

While it’s easy to be kind to people we like and those who are like us, it’s harder when we have to make the effort to reach out to the exhausted in life and pull them to their feet by showing kindness with a smile. Sometimes its just easier to judge and be judged than to look for the best in each other.

But life’s too short to be unkind—to anyone. It’s an abuse of power and authority. Meanness is never an option for the Christ-follower; we should go out of our way to be kind. I remember reading somewhere that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

It’s true. And I’ve never been more aware of it then when I drove away from Chet’s Quik Stop that day.

“Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.” (I Thess. 5:15b The Message)

© 2011 Kathy Chapman Sharp

Life’s Too Short!

God’s timing is, as usual, just perfect. After two years of life interrupted, I just got a great report from the breast surgeon and oncologist in late Spring with orders not to come around for a year unless something out of the ordinary shows back up on my doorstep. No sooner had I finished my happy dance than God began to roll out his will for my immediate future like a red carpet. Inviting and bright, it beacons me to a place I’ve yearned for. It’s like sitting in a rainstorm after an unexpected and unplanned vacation in the desert.

After years of advising and helping others get published, I am finally working on a book project of my own! Earlier in the year a publisher approached me about writing book 2 in a series called, “Life’s Too Short.”  I’ll be writing a collection of 70 short essays to young women on living life authentically and what’s important in the process. It’s slated to be on the shelves in April, so with a November 1 deadline breathing down my neck, it’s a sure bet I’ll be eating and sleeping “Life’s Too Short” for the next four months! After a recent meeting with my agent, Terry presented me with a new crock pot recipe book. I’m pretty sure that’s his way of saying he’ll be okay fishing his dinner out of the crock pot if I can just manage to throw the ingredients in there in the morning before getting immersed in my writing task for the day. Teamwork at it’s best!

So, as I begin writing today, I’d like to invite you along for the journey. Here’s where you come in …

In the context of your own life, how would you finish the sentence: “Life’s too short …?

I’m truly interested in hearing your perspectives as I write these chapters over the next few months, so jump right in. Wax poetic. Be opinionated.  Impart witty repartee. Tell me how you really feel. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, just life experiences that spill back into the true reality of living. Don’t be a stranger …