How to Trust God With Disappointment
Sheila Walsh on how to admit and overcome disappointment with God.
Disappointment is a harsh word. It speaks of failure, of not measuring up, of frustration. The word sits right down on your soul and utterly deflates it. It can arrive in something as trivial as a hyped-up movie that failed to deliver or feel as severe as a blow to the heart that sends you reeling.
If you asked me to pick an adjective that might ultimately lead to hope, I would not naturally gravitate to disappointment. Disappointment feels like the mortal enemy of hope. Disappointment saps us. It shouts one more “No!” in a world far too short of “Yes!”
Of all the issues that seem to hound us, disappointment appears to debilitate us more than most. It can turn inward at ourselves or out toward another. It can even get turned toward God.
But we usually find it much easier to voice disappointment with ourselves or with others than to speak of dissatisfaction with our heavenly Father. It’s hard to say it out loud: “I’m disappointed with you, God!” It feels wrong, even blasphemous. The critic in the cellar of our soul reminds us that the Christian life is supposed to be one of victory. No one wants to stand up in a prayer meeting and confess that God has let them down. We want to say the right thing, the spiritual thing, the religious thing, the thing that makes others applaud and say amen!
Although we don’t admit it very often, I think we all want to give the right answer rather than what we think might really be true. But hear me on this: the compulsion to say the “right thing” explains why so many of us have fallen spiritually sick.
If such a thought—that God Himself has disappointed you—lurks in the basement of your soul, then open the door and let it out! Do we honestly think we will shock God if we tell Him how we really feel? Do we imagine that we do our souls any good by pretending?
Listen, God is big enough and His love is fierce enough to deal with anything we feel or must face. So let’s stop right here and acknowledge the truth: life can deeply disappoint us. God’s Word doesn’t shy away from it, so why should we?
A Turn in the Tide
We rarely teach Disappointment 101 in church. And to make matters worse, our culture has very little idea how to handle disappointment.
This knowledge doesn’t come naturally, and when we fail to learn it, we may fell tempted to throw in the towel at the first feelings of difficulty. Or worse, we may lose weeks, months and sometimes years of our lives trying to recover from something we feared would destroy us until the storm settles and we see that christ was in control all along, no matter how things appeared or felt.
Although disappointment hurts, pain does not have to become our enemy. What makes pain our enemy or our friend is how we deal with it. As a mom, I have found this distinction more difficult to maintain than I ever anticipated. I want to protect my son from all life’s disappointments!
And yet, when I try, I do him a great disservice, for disappointment is part of life. When we fail to acknowledge this fact, we tend to view disappointment as a disaster rather than a chance to learn and grow, a pathway to real hope. For this reason, we must learn to recognize disappointment as a turn in the tide and not the end of the journey.
Not all disappointments are as monumental as they seam at first. And sometimes the little disappointments aggravate the most—a splinter rather than a gaping wound. I have had to learn the latter lesson over and over again!
And yet the questions come
As sons and daughters of the King, we celebrate an all-powerful and all-loving God—and the twin truths of disappointment and an omnipotent God of love don’t tend to sit well together.
Let’s imagine you have a child who has abandoned his or her faith. Every night, you get down on your knees and beg God to bring your child back to Him. You pray day in and day out, week after week, month after month … and nothing changes.
At first glance, you seem left with the following dilemma:
God is love, but my child has not come home, therefore, God can’t be powerful. or
God is powerful, but my child did not come home; therefore, God can’t be love.
The question gets further complicated when we add the fact that some who pray receive exactly what they request—by FedEx overnight delivery. So what does that say? Does God play favorites? When we compare lives, it seems hard to believe that the God of the universe loves each of us with the same degree of fiery, passionate love. And if we don’t believe that He loves all of us equally, then we struggle to trust Him at all.
God is all-powerful, pure, undiluted love. But He is not like a genie who appears when we rub the magic lamp and grants us three wishes.
Trusting God in Disappointment
If right now you find yourself in a season of profound disappointment, the enemy would have you believe the life that God is not listening to you and that He doesn’t care about you. He would point to your wrenching circumstances and present them as irrefutable evidence.
But we cannot live like that! We must hold up, like a shelter, the truth of God’s Word over our desperate feelings of disappointment, knowing that He cares and He loves more profoundly than we will ever know.
Have you ever told Him about the things you have pushed deep into the cellar of your soul, hoping you would never have to look at them again?
Have you ever named out loud the disappointments of your life?
The enemy loves to torment us in those places. He loves to drag out our garbage and face us with the stench. But when we bring out the whole truth to Jesus, the power of a secret long kept simply vanishes.
Jesus longs to own all of you. Are you weighed down by disappointment in yourself, in others, or in God? Tell Christ the whole truth. We will never understand this side of heaven the depth of the love of God. But we have a glorious invitation to trade our disappointment for the sure and certain hope we have in Christ.
Excerpt adapted from The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh. Used with permission by Thomas Nelson.