Starting spiritual conversations by dealing with disappointment

Disappointment hurts.

Not just an everyday disappointment – but ones that hit you in the gut when you least expect it.

The kind of pain that takes you to your knees – and keeps you there.

A best friend betrays you.

An adult child makes terrible life choices.

A spouse breaks their promise.

The loss of a job.

The pain of disappointment is at its sharpest when trust is violated or aspirations come to a screeching halt.

And that can have a major effect on our relationship with God.

When it seems that God breaks his promises to care for us – be a provider or protector – then how we can trust him with the big things in life?

Disappointment erodes trust.

When God seems to turn his back on us, then it’s easy to turn our back on him.

Jesus’ disciples knew disappointment. They had left everything to follow him.

When Jesus did not turn out to be the Messiah they were expecting, they deserted him after he was arrested.

The Jewish people were disappointed too. They heard the stories about Jesus’ miracles and celebrated his arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey. Many waved palm branches to welcome the new king who was going to save them from tyranny.

High hopes and expectations were placed on Jesus in Jerusalem and he did not deliver.

A humiliating, excruciating death on the cross was considered a defeat by the followers and a victory for the accusers.

Jesus delivered, but in a way that most of them missed.

Sometimes we miss the point, too. We believe Jesus saved us from our sins, but too often we expect him to be the Messiah to deliver us from problems in this world.

When God doesn’t seem to deliver on his promises – prayers left unanswered or bad things happen – our confidence is rattled, and our trust is shaken.

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Many people who struggle with disappointment tend to be anonymous sufferers.

God becomes the object of their anger and disappointment rather than an anchor of hope.

Some even take it to the extreme by becoming vocal agnostics. They vocally shake their fist to the heavens and cry out, “Where are you!?!” Their conclusions typically start with disappointment.

Faith is not an easy journey – even for the faithful. Processing real disappointment and how believers respond reveals fruit of a faith rooted in Christ.

Studies have shown that most people who don’t go to church consider themselves spiritual. Most desperately want to cling to a certain hope. They will listen to someone they have learned to trust, especially if it is someone they have observed from a distance. They have witnessed and felt your fruit and believe it was good.

What is so amusing is that many humble believers rooted in Christ’s promises don’t often feel fruitful – they just live it. They are startled when a person says they admire their faith. So, what can we say?

Start by being real. Be yourself and don’t try to be somebody that you are not.

Jesus reserved the strongest words for the religious-sounding. The Pharisees took strides to appear holy, and righteous while in their hearts they harbored deceit. Christians ought to avoid presenting themselves as being put together when inside they are torn apart. It comes across as phony and contrite. And unbelieving sufferers see right through it.

Let’s admit that life is hard, confusing and disappointment hurts.

There are times when it really hurts. 

The question we pose is not how to conquer disappointment or pretend it doesn’t exist, but how Christians process disappointment at the foot of the cross.

It can all start with the word “trust”.

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God has a way of severely working in our hearts when we have false expectations of who he is. Because he disciplines those he loves, God will shatter false idols by allowing gut-wrenching disappointments into our lives. It is his way of getting us to see the big picture of what’s the most important in life.

And it all starts with trust. Are you going to trust what the world offers as remedies or trust God’s promises?

Trust is a powerful word — a word that most of us struggle with every day.

The level of trust is often found in our relationships.

Do I trust the love of my wife when I am disappointed? Is my poor response back to her a by-product of a lack of trust in her love? What about my friends, children, or siblings?

My lack of trust in others can affect my trust in God’s love for me. When experiencing disappointments in life, a poor response can be a by-product of my lack of trust in his promises.

God does not provide us with the means to escape from pain or disappointment – but to confront them with Truth.

This Truth is what we can share with others.

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Perhaps we can share with them:

I know that God is interested in rescuing us from disappointment and saving us from difficult circumstances. I regularly share with him my concerns, frustrations, and desires. And I get disappointed with him when his will or desire does not match with my own.

I have discovered that my disappointment with God usually stems from him not granting what I desire rather than trusting what he desires. God is interested in saving broken relationships or a loved one from cancer – but he’s far more interested in saving souls.

Jesus did not come to this earth to pick a fight on my behalf and conquer my problems – but to bring peace.

The cross reminds us of that.

God kept his promise. He sent a Savior on our behalf. He finished the work and by faith we receive all the benefits. The full forgiveness of my sins gives me assurance and confidence of my status with God. Nothing else matters.

Trusting in God’s promises is like reading a book or watching a favorite movie when you already know the ending.

The empty tomb is the spoiler alert.

Jesus won.

He rose again.

Trusting in Jesus’ promises recalibrates expectations in life and softens disappointments. True peace is a by-product of trust that we cling to during the storms in life. Faith cleans the lenses from living in a dirty world full of sin, pain, and disappointment and sees the big picture in life. Because of what Christ has already done for us, our future is assured.

Disappointment then becomes a great blessing.


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