Dealing with Disappointment

by Linda Strickland
Mar/Apr 2009

Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around. Proverbs 13:12 (The Message)

Have you ever been disappointed about something? Disappointment can be difficult to deal with, especially when it involves something you were counting on. For example, a long-awaited visit from a loved one that gets cancelled, or an anticipated job promotion with a much needed salary increase that unexpectedly falls through. Disappointment can leave you feeling heartsick, but it can also make you angry, bewildered and filled with grief.

A few years ago when my husband and I moved to Jacksonville, we rented an apartment for the first year, and before our lease came to an end we began looking at houses. I was so excited about owning our own home, as we had also lived in an apartment the previous 3 years while at seminary. I was anxiously looking forward to buying a house….a place where we could spread out, hang our hat and plant flowers.

We searched and searched, and then we found it – the perfect little house. The house was brand new and the building process would be completed right at the time our lease expired. We put down a deposit and gave our notice to move out of our apartment. Everything was perfect.

While the house was still in the construction process, one evening we decided to go for a visit and check out the progress. We walked through the un-finished house, and with a permanent marker wrote scripture on the foundation and door frames. We prayed through and blessed every room and completely dedicated our new home to the Lord, promising to use it for His glory and honor. I cannot adequately describe how happy I felt.

The next afternoon we unexpectedly received a phone call from the builder saying that unless we were willing to use his lending company to finance the house, the deal was off. After getting some financial advice, we decided that it would not be beneficial for us to go that route. I suddenly felt desperate….and even though, in my heart, I knew it was not the right plan for us; I was ready to do it anyway. However, with a voice of reason, my husband said no. He said that even though the house felt right for us, the deal was not. And so…with heavy hearts we decided that the next morning we would go to the builder’s office, pick up our deposit check, and walk away from our perfect house.

To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. I was devastated!

I am ashamed to say this, but my emotions were such a mess that I couldn’t do anything but go to bed and cry. I had emotionally already taken possession of that house, and to lose it felt like a death. My grief was inconsolable…my heart was broken.

Later on that night, at the height of my disappointment, I found myself confused to the point of questioning God’s wisdom for us, and felt betrayed by Him. After all…hadn’t we just given up our whole life to go to seminary and work in full time ministry for Him? It just wasn’t fair! I was in such a tangled knot of emotions that the only choice I had was to bring the whole mess to Him, as I couldn’t even begin to sort it out myself.

Have you ever felt that way?

One example in the Bible of someone whose spiritual struggle centered on feelings of disappointment and betrayal was Jeremiah. Jeremiah, who was drafted by God into a position as a prophet in Judah, knew that the task of being God’s spokesman to a rebellious nation was no dream job. He knew that he would encounter the wrath of kings and the deaf ear of his countrymen. But when a fellow priest had Jeremiah beaten and put into stocks, Jeremiah sank to an all time low. Disappointed and betrayed, not by the enemy, but by a fellow servant of God.

Jeremiah 20:7 gives us a front row seat to Jeremiah’s profoundly personal prayer, revealing a man struggling with the unexpected circumstances God had allowed in his life. “O Lord,” Jeremiah says, “You deceived me and I was deceived, you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long.” And he ends his complaint in verse 18 by crying, “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”

What strikes me about Jeremiah’s tirade to God is his ability to be so honest. He felt let down, angry, and betrayed….and he told God so. This kind of honesty takes courage. Courage to stop running and hiding….and pouting. Courage to say, “Here I am. I’m a complete mess, and you’ll have to help me sort it all out.”

It is at this lowest point that we are most open to God’s grace. Even though feeling desperately disappointed, we find ourselves having to trust in His plan for us….because we don’t know what else to do. I once saw a bumper sticker that read “When all else fails, trust God.” It strikes me as funny that He is most often our last resort, however unintentional this act may be.

In my house situation, I had let my disappointment almost blind me to the better plan that God had for us. The next morning as we left the builders office, my husband suggested that we drive around and look at some other houses. In spite of the fact that all I wanted to do was go back to bed and cry some more (I wasn’t through yet), I agreed. As we drove out of the neighborhood where my “perfect house” was, we took a right turn onto a road we had not yet explored. The first little neighborhood we came to had the amazing home in it that, we later came to realize, God had chosen for us. Over the course of the next few weeks we bought the house and moved in, just before our lease expired. I cannot tell you how many times we have thanked God for correcting what would have been a bad decision, and for leading us to where He wanted.

What I have found, is that although some disappointments can get turned around into a happy ending, some disappointments simply have to be lived with and accepted. And I’ve had many of those as well. But whichever way it goes, I, for one, am thankful that although my reaction to disappointment can be displeasing to Him, He always takes me back, dusts me off, wipes my tears and gently leads me back on track.

His grace is truly amazing!

Linda Strickland Linda Strickland is the Associate Director of Ministry and Assistant to Judith MacNutt. Mar/Apr 2009 Issue